Kadima Party in Israel Replaces Livni as Leader (NY) TIMES) By ISABEL KERSHNER JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 03/28/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
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JERUSALEM — Tzipi Livni, who not long ago was a popular and leading
force in Israeli politics, lost the leadership of her centrist Kadima
Party on Tuesday by a large margin to an archrival, according to
results of the primary election.
The victory of Shaul Mofaz, a former military chief and defense
minister and Kadima’s longstanding No. 2, left Ms. Livni’s political
future in question. It also raised the prospect of a broader
political shift, with analysts and commentators predicting that Mr.
Mofaz would be more inclined than Ms. Livni to join a governing
coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his right-
leaning Likud Party.
Mr. Mofaz is inheriting a party less than a decade old and much
weakened from the days when it was the governing party, from 2006 to
2009. Kadima’s period in opposition since has been lackluster under
Ms. Livni. It remains the largest party in Parliament, but recent
polls indicate that it has lost about half its support, making it
just another contender in the crowded field of Israeli politics.
With attention in Israel and Washington focused on how to deal with
Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Ms. Livni’s flagship policy for Kadima — a
negotiated peace with the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state
solution — has seemed increasingly irrelevant.
Mr. Netanyahu’s government has bent more leftward than many Israelis
had expected, endorsing the two-state solution in principle and
agreeing to a 10-month freeze in settlement construction, said
Abraham Diskin, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem. The freeze expired in September 2010, and the Palestinians
have refused to return to negotiations without a new settlement
“The majority of Israelis believe that the Palestinians are
responsible for the lack of progress,” Professor Diskin said,
adding, “That only increases the popularity of the government and
decreases that of Kadima.”
Mr. Mofaz has promoted his own plan for a provisional Palestinian
state in 60 to 65 percent of the West Bank, in addition to Gaza,
without initially removing any Israeli settlements.
Both Mr. Mofaz, 63, and Ms. Livni, 53, were once Likud ministers. Ms.
Livni joined Kadima at its founding in November 2005 by Israel’s
longtime leader, Ariel Sharon, shortly before the major stroke that
has left him in a coma. Mr. Mofaz joined a few weeks later.
Analysts have increasingly questioned the cohesiveness of the party,
which draws from both left and right. Some have even speculated that
after the primary, Kadima might break up.
Mr. Mofaz, who was born in Iran and immigrated to Israel with his
family at the age of 9, won about 61.7 percent of the vote to Ms.
Livni’s 37.2 percent. About 45 percent of Kadima’s 95,000 members
Ms. Livni said she had called Mr. Mofaz to congratulate him, but
would not say whether she intended to remain in Kadima.
Both candidates wrote articles appealing to voters that ran side by
side on Tuesday in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot.
Mr. Mofaz pledged that a Kadima Party under his leadership would
focus on social justice issues in Israel. “Starting from tomorrow,
Israel will have a fighting and relevant opposition,” he wrote.
Ms. Livni echoed the belief of some political analysts here that Mr.
Mofaz would be more likely to join a Netanyahu-led government, saying
that he would turn Kadima into “Likud B,” an accusation Mr. Mofaz
strenuously denied in an interview with Israel Radio as voting was
under way on Tuesday.
Critics inside and outside Kadima have faulted Ms. Livni for what
they say is her ineffectiveness as an opposition leader. She was
unable to form a governing coalition in 2008 after her predecessor as
Kadima’s leader, Ehud Olmert, resigned as prime minister amid a
deepening corruption investigation, a failure that led to early
In the 2009 elections, the party won 28 seats to Likud’s 27. But Ms.
Livni again was unable to put together a coalition, then refused to
join Mr. Netanyahu’s government, a decision many critics viewed as a
“I stood by the principles that are important to you,” she wrote in
Yediot Aharonot. “For those principles, I went into opposition
instead of taking a job in the Netanyahu government.”
Ms. Livni has also been criticized for her political absence during
the huge social justice protests last summer when hundreds of
thousands of Israelis demonstrated for affordable housing and against
the high cost of living.
Mr. Mofaz has presented himself as more attuned to social issues, but
the center-left Labor Party under its recently elected leader, Shelly
Yacimovich, is far more identified with the social struggle in Israel.
The political center also has a new contender, Yair Lapid, a popular
television host whose father was a well-known politician and
journalist. Mr. Lapid announced in January that he was entering
politics. Although he has not yet formed a party, polls have
indicated that it would drain votes away from Kadima. (Copyright 2012
The New York Times Company 03/28/12)
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