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Olmert: All parties potential partners
Kadima leader tells senior party members all Zionist parties are potential coalition partners; meeting called to allay Kadima tensions. Earlier, President Bush congratulates Olmert, invites him to visit America

Elections winner Kadima does not disqualify any party from joining a future coalition, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told senior party members during a meeting Wednesday.

 

"All Zionist parties are potential coalition partners," Olmert said. Kadima's negotiations teams will be engaging in coalition talks with the various parties and will present the various offers to top party officials.

 

During the slimmer-than-expected modest victory, Olmert told his fellow party members: "I treated you with openness and will continue to do so."

 

Earlier, United States President George W. Bush phoned Olmert to congratulate him on his election victory.

 

Olmert thanked the president and vowed to take the necessary steps in order to set up a broad coalition quickly. Bush, meanwhile, invited Olmert to visit the U.S. immediately after he forms a new government.

 

However, Olmert still has plenty of work ahead of him before he is able to forge a new coalition, in light of Kadima's disappointing showing the elections, with the party winning only 28 Knesset seats instead of the projected 35 or so.

 

As a result, Olmert convened on Wednesday the first post-election meeting of senior Kadima members in an effort to allay tensions within the party, as senior figures are already setting their sights on key portfolios. The session also aimed to consolidate the first coalition messages that Kadima will broadcast to parties wanted for joining the government.

 

Among the invitees: Shimon Peres, Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Haim Ramon, Dalia Itzik, Ronnie Bar-On, Jacob Edery, Zeev Boim and others.

  

Senior Kadima ministers are aware they might have to give up their ministries and it is not clear they will be able to occupy key positions in the Knesset, for example.

 

In ministerial offices they are speaking about future battles over portfolios, and especially the senior ministries – Foreign, Security, Finance, and Education Ministries, as well as the Interior and Justice Ministries.

 

'Horrendous preparation'

 

Many in Kadima have been busy analyzing the elections results, in an attempt to understand why the winning party did not gain the number of mandates forecasted in the polls. There are those who blame the elections day headquarters, headed by Avi Dichter – but there is no lack of blame either towards the "level of responsibility of the Israeli voter."

 

On Tuesday, during the victory celebration in Neveh Ilan, a bitter criticism was launched against the way the campaign was managed until Election Day, and especially on Election Day itself.

 

A senior party member conceded: "In recent weeks, some pretty major divisions have taken place in the party headquarters over the way the headquarters on the ground have operated. He added: "Behind the big words and activities, we reached events and conferences in which the preparation was horrendous."

 

'Israelis don't want a big party'

 

Kadim'a campaign managers claimed this morning that the Israeli voter erred twice: The first time when he failed to show up and vote (only 63.2 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, the lowest voter turnout in Israel's history), and the second time when he chose to vote in protest and support the Pensioners party.

 

"The Israeli voter didn't want to give one party that offers him a road to the future enough power," one of the party's strategic advisers told Ynet.

 

"The voter prefers to continue dividing the power between several parties, perhaps because of his reservations regarding political corruption. Or maybe because in Israel, the recognition that concentrating the influence in the hands of one party can trigger great moves has not yet matured."

 

'Like winning the double'

 

Senior Kadima members rejected Wednesday claims against them voiced in the party's field level, but confirmed that this was a new party and that working procedures in the campaign were formulated while in motion. "In four and-a-half months we had to establish a party, deal with an almost three-weeks suspension of activity during Ariel Sharon's hospitalization, get back to work and win. Under the circumstances, what we managed to accomplish is a great triumph," one of the central campaign activists told Ynet.

 

All in all, the feeling among party activists is that a great effort has been performed in a difficult situation and that the victory is what should be taken in mind. "So what if the win was by a small margin? The main thing is the victory, and in our case it was like winning the double: We won the elections and crushed the Likud," one of the campaign leaders told Ynet.

 


First published: 29.03.06, 17:25
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