Sunday, December 14, 2008

On eve of primary, anger grows against Livni in Kadima

From THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 14, 2008, by Gil Hoffman:

Kadima will choose its Knesset list on Wednesday amid growing anger in the party over Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's failure narrow the gap in the polls between the two parties.

Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu succeeded in getting his nemesis, Moshe Feiglin, demoted to the 36th slot on the party's list last Thursday, but there is still a chance he could return to the 20th slot in which he was initially placed, due to appeals filed by former Likud MKs Michael Ratzon and Ehud Yatom, who were demoted along with Feiglin for technical reasons.

Kadima officials had hoped that Kadima would grow in support due to the placement on the Likud list of Feiglin and former Likud rebel MKs. They also hoped that Netanyahu's obsessive behavior against Feiglin would cause him to lose support.

But polls sponsored by three Hebrew dailies found that the Likud had lost no more than two seats and might have even gained a seat. They also found that Labor had gained seats following its primary at Kadima's expense.

The most damaging poll for Livni was Shvakim Panorama's, which was broadcast on Israel Radio Thursday. The poll predicted that Likud would win 34-35 seats, Kadima 20-21 and Labor, which until last week was in single digits, 14-15.

Livni's advisers said there was still plenty of time ahead of the February 10 election. ...But Livni's critics in Kadima said that the more Livni spoke publicly, the more the party would fall in the polls. They pointed to two controversial statements she made Thursday to Tel Aviv high school students that even people close to her in the party admitted made them feel uncomfortable.

Livni told the students regarding kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit that "we all want Gilad to come home, but there is always the risk of minimum casualties and it isn't always possible to bring everyone home."

Regarding Israeli Arabs she said, "I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, 'Your national solution lies elsewhere.'"
While some in the party called such statements "undisciplined" for a candidate, her advisers said they were "prime ministerial," because they proved that she was "a different kind of leader who always tells the truth, and always says things as they are, and that's why people trust her."

...Additional anger was expressed at Livni in Kadima by candidates who were hoping for her support but have been disappointed that she has not campaigned on their behalf. Privately, MKs who supported her in the Kadima leadership race said they were upset that their endorsements had not been reciprocated.

Knesset candidates who supported Livni's rival in the leadership race, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, expressed similar anger over the weekend at him for not working on their behalf ahead of the primary. Others were annoyed to find themselves left out of lists of candidates who Mofaz supported in the race that were leaked over the weekend.

Mofaz's list includes ministers Ze'ev Boim and Ruhama Avraham, MKs Ronit Tirosh, Shai Hermesh, Otniel Schneller and David Tal, and activists Yuval Zellner, Avner Barzani, Roni Ben-Hamo, Avi Duen and Akram Hason. Livni's associates denied reports that she was concerned Mofaz would succeed in electing a faction within Kadima that could later split from the party and join Likud.

...Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak sharply criticized Livni on Saturday for suggesting that it may not be possible to bring Schalit home. ..."I'm not too sure that I understand [Livni's] statement," Barak said. "I have buried many soldiers who were killed and did not return. We have the highest responsibility to return a soldier who is alive and in captivity through all suitable and possible methods, but not at any price.

Even Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi felt the need to respond to Livni's remarks, declaring that Schalit was on Israel's agenda every day. "Vast resources are being invested in this matter," Ashkenazi said at a meeting with Beduin and Druse leaders for Id al-Adha on Friday. "I am hopeful that we will succeed in returning Gilad home to his family as quickly as possible."

Livni's comments also enraged activists pushing for Schalit's release....

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