With Olmert out, a tight, tense race

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images With Ehud Olmert’s resignation announcement today, the floodgates have opened for speculation on who will emerge as the Kadima Party’s choice in the September 17 primary. As I noted earlier, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz are the two likeliest candidates. The two candidates lead in the polls at ...

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593612_080730_israel5.jpg

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

With Ehud Olmert's resignation announcement today, the floodgates have opened for speculation on who will emerge as the Kadima Party's choice in the September 17 primary. As I noted earlier, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz are the two likeliest candidates. The two candidates lead in the polls at 38 percent and 33 perfect, respectively.

Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation and a one-time advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, stressed to me in an interview this afternoon that the differences between the two candidates are incredible. Livni is a narrow frontrunner, he says, as numbers show her ahead of the hawkish Mofaz, who made headlines in June by saying that an Israeli strike on Iran was "unavoidable" if Iran did not abandon its nuclear program.

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

With Ehud Olmert’s resignation announcement today, the floodgates have opened for speculation on who will emerge as the Kadima Party’s choice in the September 17 primary. As I noted earlier, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz are the two likeliest candidates. The two candidates lead in the polls at 38 percent and 33 perfect, respectively.

Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation and a one-time advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, stressed to me in an interview this afternoon that the differences between the two candidates are incredible. Livni is a narrow frontrunner, he says, as numbers show her ahead of the hawkish Mofaz, who made headlines in June by saying that an Israeli strike on Iran was “unavoidable” if Iran did not abandon its nuclear program.

Levy figures that Livni has a better chance to defeat the likely Likud Party candidate, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a general election. “She’s way more popular, and would be way more competitive [than Mofaz],” he says.

Livni is also a much better fit for the centrist reputation that Kadima has tried to build for itself. Mofaz? Not so much, according to Levy:

He looks and sounds a lot more like a Likud politician. He began his campaign by saying he might move to live in the Golan Heights. He has been a skeptic of the peace process. He’s got quite a lot of baggage to carry… He is not considered to have been an effective chief of staff or defense minister. Many people look at the army that fought the Lebanon War [in 2006] and say, ‘Well that was your army, Mofaz; you’re the one who led to a lot of the cuts in training, the focus on the West Bank rather than being prepared for more significant missions.'”

But lest we rule him out, Levy says, there are quite a few things working in Mofaz’s favor, including a more effective political machine inside Kadima and a potential endorsement from Olmert — both of which are extremely important in a small, Kadima-only voting electorate.

It should be an interesting summer.

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