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Mofaz Banking on Social Agenda

Newly-elected Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz is hoping a social agenda will restore his party's fortunes and launch him into the premiership.
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 3/29/2012, 5:55 PM

MK Shaul Mofaz
MK Shaul Mofaz
Flash 90

Newly-elected opposition leader Shaul Mofaz pledged Thursday to work for social reform, saying "Kadima will restore dignity to the working class."

Mofaz – a former IDF Chief of Staff and Defense Minister – soundly defeated Tzipi Livni in a Tuesday vote to replace her as chairman of Kadima Party, the largest in the Knesset.

"I want to build Kadima as a centrist, nationally oriented, social issues party that will remain in the opposition," Mofaz told the Hebrew-language Ma'ariv daily.

Over the summer, Israelis turned out in large numbers to protest the spiraling cost of living, but the movement petered out with few accomplishments.

Analysts say Mofaz's remarks are part of his bid to bill himself as a centrist alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for October 2013.

Mofaz also rejected speculation he would join Netanyahu's government, saying he expects to replace the prime minister, not join him.

However, a poll by Israel's Channel 10 on Wednesday indicated Mofaz's ascension to the Kadima chairmanship has not halted the party's free-fall from public grace.

Were elections held today, the poll indicated that Kadima under Mofaz would win just 15 seats in the Knesset. It currently holds 28 seats.

Additionally, Netanyahu's Likud party would win the election with 32 seats, while the Labor party would grow to 15 seats, one more than Yisrael Beiteinu at 14 seats.

A theoretical party headed by Yair Lapid would garner 9 seats. However, Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Independence party still fails to pass the threshold to be seated in the Knesset.

In the last elections Kadima won 28 seats to Likud's 27, but chairwoman Tzipi Livni failed to form a coalition resulting in Netanyahu being tapped for the premiership.

Kadima was founded in 2005 when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defected from Likud to carry out a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke months later.