Kadima takes on Lieberman: Israel Our Home's plan to redraw Israel's borders in a way that leaves Arab-Israeli communities outside the country is "dangerous and would result in the loss of the northern Galilee region," Kadima's Shimon Peres said in a pre-election convention Wednesday evening.
"There are already more Arabs than Jews living in the Galilee," Peres said, while criticizing Israel Our Home's Chairman Avigdor Lieberman. "It's unthinkable for Israel to engage in ethnic cleansing and expel Israeli Arabs. There's no room for savagery in international relations."
Until now, Kadima focused its campaign on Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, but in the past two weeks Lieberman has been moving up in the polls, apparently prompting Kadima to turn its attention to Israel Our Home, which in one survey won 12 Knesset seats.
Earlier Wednesday, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said parties that are unwilling to back his plan for further West Bank withdrawals would not be able to take part in the next coalition, comments seen as a clear reference to Israel Our Home and Shas, previously viewed as candidates to join a Kadima-led government.
Meanwhile, Lieberman responded to Olmert's remarks by saying that "five days before the elections we're concentrating on Election Day and not the days after it."
"Israel Our Home has a clear diplomatic plan, and we don't intend to engage in (coalition) negotiations through newspapers or television screens," he said.
Wednesday evening, Peres attacked Lieberman over Israel Our Home's controversial plan for "population exchanges." Under the scheme, some Arab-Israeli communities in northern Israel will become part of the Palestinian Authority, while West Bank settlements will become an inseparable part of Israel.
Various observers slammed the plan as a "transfer" of Arab residents, while characterizing Lieberman as a "fascist."
Kadima officials: Olmert needs trusted allies
With Election Day approaching and the drafting of future coalitions dominating the political arena, Kadima officials are worried about coalition negotiations and the division of portfolios in the next government.
Olmert's aides in Kadima have been saying in closed conversations that "Ehud had better also think about the day after. He must remember that he needs trusted allies around him. Just like Sharon knew how to surround himself with people who were willing to sacrifice themselves for his sake, Ehud should also do so."
"He should remember that if he is planning a big convergence program, he will need his people. He should remember that there were people who were willing to come with Arik from the Likud to a new party because he knew how to treat them. He will need us in due course so that we will sacrifice ourselves for him," one Kadima member said.
In other words, Kadima officials whose status on the day after the elections is unclear, have been conveying a clear message to Olmert: If you want us beside you, you better know who to assign government positions to.
The officials, who came with Sharon from the Likud, fear that they may be pushed back and not be assigned portfolios, particularly in light of the fact that Olmert will have to establish a coalition composed from a number of parties.
Meanwhile, in a meeting convened by Olmert Wednesday afternoon with 13 Knesset members who were among the founders of the new party, the acting prime minister called on them not to get involved in coalition issues and not to deal with what he called "speculations."
Olmert also made it clear that he did not promise a thing to any Kadima member and that he is not dealing with the issue these days.
"Bring me 61 Knesset seats, and then we will hold all the portfolios," he added.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report