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Cablegate: Kadima's First Primary a Modest Success for Livni

VZCZCXRO9758
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #2841/01 3531528
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181528Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9679
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002841

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV IS
SUBJECT: KADIMA'S FIRST PRIMARY A MODEST SUCCESS FOR LIVNI
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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) Foreign Minister and leader of the governing Kadima party,
Tzipi Livni appeared visibly relieved if not positively jubilant
over the outcome of her party's first-ever primary late Wednesday.
Her loyalists, Tzachi Hanegbi and Roni Bar-On, earned the fourth and
fifth seats despite the fact that they both face ongoing legal
proceedings in connection with criminal investigations. Livni's
personal success in securing the return of her supporters to office
in the next Knesset is further enhanced by the blow dealt to her
chief rival, Shaul Mofaz. While Livni reserved the number two slot
for him, her generosity ended there. Her camp worked strenuously to
ensure that his supporters did not secure high placings in the
Kadima list. Though three Mofaz proteges took slots among the first
twenty seats, many others were placed so far down the list as to
call their political futures and the power-base of Mofaz himself
into question.

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LIVNI ALLIES PLACE HIGH,
DESPITE CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
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2. (SBU) In comments to the press, Livni appeared pleased with the
smooth primary process and results, declaring that Kadima now has "a
winning team ... that symbolizes the center ... and will go together
with me to elections and will lead this country." Livni could take
initial satisfaction in having reshaped Kadima as her own party.
Her strongest supporters, Knesset Member Tzachi Hanegbi and Finance
Minister Roni Bar-On, came in at numbers four and five respectively.
Their success defied media speculation that the indictment filed
two years ago against Hanegbi (in regard to alleged inappropriate
political appointments) and the new criminal investigation of Bar-On
(in connection with a double voting allegation in the Knesset three
years ago), might wreck their chances. Their success in the primary
leaves Livni open to criticism that she is cultivating a
corruption-free image while surrounding herself with allies of
questionable character.

-------------------------
ITZIK: ENERGIZER-IN-CHIEF
-------------------------

3. (SBU) Outgoing Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who scored a
personal triumph by taking the number three slot after Mofaz, was
the first Kadima "insider" to make the comparison with Likud, which
she said "could only envy the broad-based composition of the Kadima
list." She also noted the fact that there are four women in the
first ten slots. Itzik, whom one commentator has already marked as
aspiring to the foreign affairs portfolio in a future coalition, is
an effective spokesperson and is already working to secure some
much-needed energy for the party which Ehud Barak has variously
described as "a refugee camp for politicians" and "a supermarket of
political ideas."

--------------------------------------------
KEEP THE OPPOSITION CLOSE, THEN DESTROY THEM
--------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Livni had been criticized for her questionable political
skills, but she appears to have outmaneuvered her chief rival, Shaul
Mofaz, who saw some of his proteges end up so low on the party list
that even the most optimistic forecast of Kadima's performance on
February 10 would not put them in parliament. Livni's offer of the
party's number two slot to Mofaz immediately after she defeated him
in the race for party chairman kept Mofaz in prominent view, but did
not prevent Livni's supporters from demolishing his "camp." These
tactics led to a Kadima list in which Mofaz allies Ze'ev Boim and
Ruchama Avraham came in at only six and eight respectively, followed
by Ronit Tirosh at 16 and Shai Hermesh at 24. The greatest upset in
the Mofaz camp was the defeat of settler MK Otniel Schneller who
came in at number 27 on the list, to the surprise of Israeli
pundits. If this was not sufficient bad news for one night, Mofaz
saw his Druze candidate, Akram Hasson, beaten out of the reserved
minorities' slot, which was taken by Livni's Druse candidate, Deputy
Foreign Minister Majali Wahabe.

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COMMENT: STRIVING FOR DYNAMISM,
ACHIEVING THE ORDINARY
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) Livni is working to portray Kadima as a dynamic centrist
party that will represent the majority of Israelis on February 10,
but the party list offers nothing new to a weary electorate still
searching for that magic "yes we can" equivalent. The biggest
benefit the list provides Kadima is a comfortable, experienced, and
relatively cohesive nucleus that can guide the party during the
electoral season. Livni, however, should not discount some
possible defections on the part of the disaffected (David Tal and

TEL AVIV 00002841 002 OF 002

SUMMARY
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Schneller come to mind).
CUNNINGHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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