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Race Begins

Livni - The stronger candidate? Photo: AP
Livni - The stronger candidate? Photo: AP
 
Mofaz - Needs a show-runner Photo: Ofer Amram
Mofaz - Needs a show-runner Photo: Ofer Amram
 
Ramon - Who will he pick? Photo: Reuters
Ramon - Who will he pick? Photo: Reuters
 
 

Will it be Shaul or Tzipi?

Kadima’s two top leadership candidates are looking for new allies

Attila Somfalvi
Published: 07.25.08, 01:04 / Israel Opinion

Even though it is clear to everyone that Ehud Olmert is finished, both politically and publicly, and even though the prime minister will need plenty of courage and chutzpa to contend for Kadima’s leadership, most senior figures in the party are still playing a waiting game.

 

They are waiting for the state prosecutor, they are waiting for an Olmert announcement, they waited for Talansky, but mostly they’re waiting for each other. Before they announce who they’re endorsing, they would like to see, as befits brave leaders, what the others are doing and where the wind is blowing.

 

Any way you look at it, the relevant leadership candidates in these primaries are Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz. Olmert is out of the game, while the two other contenders, Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter, are conducting themselves as if there’s no race at all.

 

Two months ahead of the primaries Kadima appears rather sleepy, overcome by the harsh heat of July. Yet still, things are happening: The candidates are running around, senior party officials are waiting, and the “field activists” are again gaining from the fact they’re being wooed. Those who were able to sign up enough new members to the party are having a nice time these days.

 

Two main questions bother Kadima’s people: Who will be joining forces ahead of the primaries, and what will happen after a new party chairman is elected: Will we see a new government or general elections? When it comes to the question of matchmaking and connecting, most faction members are estimated to go in Livni’s direction. Most of those who want to continue serving in the next Knesset lean in Livni’s direction and believe she can win more Knesset seats for Kadima than Mofaz can.

 

The question is what will the prominent ministers be doing? For the time being they’re silent. One of them admitted this week that he’s waiting to see what his colleagues do. Another one noted that he’s waiting to see what Olmert does. Meanwhile, speculations abound.

 

What will Ramon do? 

Ronnie Bar-On, say those who dare gamble, is already past the halfway point to Livni. He has disappeared as of late, went underground, and has refrained from submitting to interviews so that he doesn’t need to defend Olmert. Rumors have it that tensions grew between the two after Bar-On told journalist Sever Plocker that he would have resigned had he faced the clouds of suspicions faced by the PM.

 

Yet irrespective of these tensions, the finance minister is a political animal with a keen sense of smell when it comes to the public’s desires. He was always able to join forces with powerful figures. In the Likud he stood by Sharon once he realized the public backs him, and later, when Sharon went into a coma, he was the first to back Olmert.

 

And what will Haim Ramon do? If he doesn’t quit politics, as he has been threatening to do for a while
now, he will need to choose. And he will find it more difficult to handle Livni. Ramon is a politician, a master of shady deals. Livni doesn’t know how to deal with it and stays away from this style.

 

Mofaz, on the other hand, needs someone like Ramon next to him; someone who will run the political operation for him, and close the deals vis-à-vis Shas, Labor, and everyone else. He will give Ramon freedom and enable him to close the deals that need to be cut behind closed doors. And should Bar-On join forces with Livni, it is quite possible that Ramon will go with Mofaz, especially in light of the great revulsion to Livni on the part of Olmert, Ramon’s friend.

 

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