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Likud Convention Springs Surprise With Selection Of Knesset Candidates

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - Acting PM Olmert To Appoint Livni, After Netanyahu Forces Likud Cabinet Ministers To Resign

Secular Shinui Party Disintegrates

Likud Party Convention

The Likud party convention has selected a surprising list of candidates for the March 28th election. Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu is believed to have orchestrated the vote that sees a lot of new Likud 'rebels' who opposed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in northern Samaria. The night before the convention, Netanyahu ordered four Likud cabinet ministers, including his party rival Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to resign immediately from the Olmert government, At first, they balked. But then, realizing they could be penalized in the party primary, they agreed. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will now promote Justice Minister to Foreign Minister to replace Shalom. Meanwhile, after its spectacular success in the previous election, the secular Shinui party is headed to oblivion.

The Likud party has selected a lack luster list of Knesset candidates for the upcoming general election. That is the overall assessment and

Moshe Who? Moshe Kahlon, an unknown Likud back-bencher in the Knesset, has come in number one in the Likud primary! The unknown Kahlon is a young MK who opposed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. But without any other outstanding credentials, Kahlon has leaped nearly to the top of the Likud totem poll. He follows party leader Bibi Netanyahu and outgoing foreign minister Silvan Shalom. The top two drew a bye in the party election. In fourth place is a second unknown, Gilad Erdan, another young Likud 'rebel'. Netanyahu tried to put a brave face on his party list calling it the 'new generation of young dynamic Likud leaders'. Even three cabinet ministers Naveh, Livnat and Katz were kicked down the list. But a number of the most vociferous 'rebels' who attacked Prime Minister Sharon were not selected at all. The new Likud list is the result of Sharon's controversial withdrawal, his quitting the party and forming Kadima. Most of the Likud's brightest stars left with Sharon: Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit and Zachi Hanegbi followed Sharon decimating the Likud roster. In fact, the new Likud does not have a single candidate with a senior security background.

WHAT IF? But what if Bibi Netanyahu had not tried to topple Sharon last September and prompted the PM to quit the Likud and form Kadima? If Sharon had remained in the Likud, it is a safe bet that today Netanyahu and not Olmert would be Acting Prime Minister and on his way to winning the March 28th election.

As things now stand, Netanyahu has had to put down a mini-mutiny by Likud Ministers Shalom, Livnat, Naveh, and Katz. They liked their cabinet jobs and wanted to keep them until the election. This would have put Netanyahu and the party in the ludicrous position of trying to mount a fierce campaign against the government in which his own Likud ministers continued to serve. Although, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has also agreed to resign on Sunday, the tug-of-war between Netanyahu and his party rival Shalom is probably far from over. In any case, Olmert will promote Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to foreign minister.

Tzippi Livni

In her early forties, Livni, who once served in the Mossad intelligence service, is touted as the 'best and brightest' among the younger Israeli politicians. Her father Eitan Livni was a leading member of the Irgun underground lead by Menachem Begin. She was a close advisor to Ariel Sharon and has a reputation for sound judgment and shrewd analysis of political situations. In the hurly-burly of Israeli politics, Livni is a cool and articulate high-flier. Most commentators believe she will one day become the second woman to become prime minister.

Shinui leader Tommy Lapid

Shinui: The secular party lead by media mogul Tommy Lapid is about to break up. Lapid barely won his party primary while his sidekick Avraham Poraz, the founder of Shinui's spectacular fifteen seats in the previous election was kicked off the party list. Shinui has almost fallen off the opinion polls and Lapid is threatening to quit the party and maybe form a new one with Poraz. Shinui's meteoric rise was due to its aggressive campaign against entitlements to the ultra-orthodox community. Its subsequent fall again proves that a one-plank party usually works one time only.

David Essing

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