Jerusalem – Today, Israelis will vote for a new chairperson of Kadima to replace Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert, who is now under investigation for a variety of charges of betraying the public trust.
A Ma’ariv poll of Kadima party members held on Monday showed that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni led Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, though by a smaller margin than Friday.
Ms. Livni was shown to be ahead 42.5 percent versus 30.4 percent in the present poll, as opposed to a_19 percent margin last week.
Among voters who said they were certain they would vote, the margin rose to over 16 percent: 45.3 percent for Foreign Minister Livni versus 28.8 percent for Mr. Mofaz.
Fighting In The Field, Building A Coalition
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz is focusing most of his efforts in trying to prove that in addition to his great strength in the field, he is the one who will be able to form a strong coalition after the elections.
Mr. Mofaz’ campaign is focusing on the assertion that he, in contrast to Ms. Livni, could form a government and would not lead the political establishment to elections. “I have reached understandings with Shas,” he said yesterday very explicitly.
The Shas was founded as a political party in 1984 and is seen as the first Israeli political party to succeed in organizing an effective political force for Jewish Israelis who came to Israel from Middle Eastern countries, also known as Sephardic Jews.
Mr. Mofaz continued, “I intend to form a broad coalition based on the current coalition. I have held talks with leaders of factions in the coalition and outside of it.” It is believed that Mr. Mofaz said this knowing that Shas, the Orthodox Sephardic political party plans to harden its position vis--vis Ms. Livni.
Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai met with Mr. Mofaz after the cabinet meeting on Sunday after Mr. Mofaz said that he was not prepared to confirm that there were understandings between them, and certainly that there was no agreement about how the future coalition agreement would look, should Mr. Mofaz win.
Even after members of Mr. Mofaz’s campaign put heavy pressure on senior Shas officials to say that understandings exist, Shas continued to insist that these were only feelers. More requests and repeated attempts at persuasion by a number of senior Mofaz aides did not help.
Senior Shas officials also explained that although Mr. Mofaz had made promises, they were not convinced that he would actually carry them out, and so nothing has been settled.
The Shas know that the main issue on the negotiating table, should Mr. Mofaz win, is the renewal of the child allowance system, which was cancelled five years ago. This system provided a substantive monthly grant for every child, something which a large religious family appreciates.
Ms. Livni is seen as holding an obvious advantage in the Tel Aviv region.
In the city of Rishon Lezion, where there are more than 5,000 registered voters, Mr. Mofaz has an advantage because of the support of the main activists and because of Mayor Meir Nitzan.
In Netanya, Mr. Mofaz is running strong. In Haifa, too, Mr. Mofaz is strong, as most of the activists there are with him.
Mr. Mofaz is leading in Ashdod, since the main activists and the port’s workers committee support him. In Beer Sheva, the battle is close; but apparently Ms. Livni has an advantage. In Eilat too, the battle is between the municipal activists and the port workers.
In Ashkelon, Ms. Livni has an advantage since the main vote broker in the city, Itamar Shimoni, supports her. This is also the case in Upper Nazareth, where she is supported by the deputy mayor. In Petah Tikva, the main registration official, Levy Shetrit, supports Mr. Mofaz, while officials at Ms. Livni’s headquarters claim that despite this, they believe that they are capable of obtaining many votes in the city.
Official results are expected by early tomorrow morning.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008