Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, leading marginally in the polls over Transportation Minister Sha'ul Mofaz, has picked up important support from MK Tzachi HaNegbi. 

The two ministers are running, together with dark horses Ministers Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit, for leader of Israel's ruling party, Kadima.  The primaries are to be held five weeks from now.

The winner will be presented the task of winning the confidence of the existing coalition or formulating a new government. If successful, he/she will replace Ehud Olmert as prime minister.

The most recently publicized poll, surveying a sampling of 1,200 registered Kadima Party members this week, shows Livni leading Mofaz by 6-10 percentage points.  The poll, done by the Dialog Institute for Channel 10, shows that Dichter and Sheetrit would each receive only 4%, while Livni would garner 35%, and Mofaz - 25%.  If the two weaker candidates drop out, Mofaz would pick up another 8% and Livni only another 4%, cutting her lead to six points.

HaNegbi for Livni

HaNegbi, generally noted for his relatively hawkish stance within the dovish Kadima party, surprised observers by throwing his support behind Livni. 

"It is to the benefit of the State of Israel to have leadership from a centrist, public-minded political movement," said HaNegbi, "one that knows how to combine different outlooks that are in the Zionist and nationalist consensus, and that shakes off extremism.  I believe that Foreign Minister Livni well expresses this idea in her public experience, her values, and her calm and broad vision."

HaNegbi himself vaulted to national prominence as one of the leaders of the "Movement to Stop the Withdrawal from Sinai" in the early 1980s.  He led a group of university students who sat atop a tall monument in the doomed city of Yamit and refused to descend unless the withdrawal was called off.  Police and army soldiers later forcibly removed him.

Livni also has the support of Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Whbee and MKs Yitzchak Ben-Yisrael and Shlomo Molla.

Six MKs for Mofaz

Six Kadima MKs and ministers have expressed public support for Sha'ul Mofaz in the race for Kadima leader.  They are Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim, Minister Ruchama Avraham-Belila, and MKs Ze'ev Elkin, Otniel Shneller, Ronit Tirosh and David Tal.

Mofaz is clearly favored by the nationalist camp, as his interests in securing a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority play second fiddle to his security concerns.  Mofaz served in the past as Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff.

Shneller said Mofaz is the "most appropriate choice to connect and join various elements in Israeli society," but added that he would support whichever candidate is chosen by Kadima voters.

Tirosh said, "I entered politics because I liked the approach that combines the right-wing with the center. But unfortunately, right after the Disengagement from Gush Katif and northern Shomron, [there was] a social crisis, and then with the continued firing at Sderot and environs, my innocence was shattered.  I now think that in light of all this, we must be very cautious about any future withdrawal decisions."

Candidates Support Palestinian State

In May 2003, when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first presented the Road Map plan - calling for a Palestinian state - to the government for a vote, Ministers Livni, Mofaz and Sheetrit all voted in favor.  Dichter was not a Cabinet minister at the time, but he is known to strongly favor the formation of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

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