Kadima Votes for Leader; Polls Show Party a Loser

Kadima chooses between Livni and Mofaz as leader on Tuesday, but polls show that whoever wins, the party is a loser.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu ,

Mofaz, Livni
Mofaz, Livni
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Kadima chooses between Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz as leader on Tuesday, but polls show that whoever wins, the party is a loser. Turnout is expected to be small following a campaign that featured each candidate warning that choosing the other would doom the party.

On paper, Kadima is Israel's largest party, having won one more Knesset Member than Likud in the last general elections. Since Livni’s failure to form a coalition government, the party has fallen into disfavor under her leadership, which has been far from inspiring supporters.

Livni has defined her position as Opposition leader as requiring her to speak against virtually every action of the Netanyahu government, including those that Kadima once favored. A rare exception was her joining virtually every other political leader in condemning European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for comparing deaths in Gaza with the victims of the cold-blooded murders of a rabbi and three young children in France last week.

Polls have shown that no matter who wins the neck-to-neck leadership contest, the real winner may be Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the nationalist camp. All political surveys indicate that Kadima’s strength in the Knesset would crumble if elections were held today, no matter who heads the party. Labor, the Likud, and a new party headed by Yair Lapid would pick up the crumbs.

Apathy hovers over the party, and a low turnout is expected, which would help Mofaz, a former IDF Chief of Staff and Defense Minister who, like Livni, abandoned the Likud and followed then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to from Kadima eight years ago because of Likud opposition to his “Disengagement” plan to expels Jews from Gaza.

Although rarely mentioned in public, the contest pits an Ashkenazi woman from the “elite” against Mofaz, the first Sephardi to command the IDF. She is strong in metropolitan Tel Aviv, the unofficial seat of the industrial elite, while Mofaz is more popular in outlying areas, where Sephardi Jews comprise a larger part of the population.