Israelis have begun voting in an election that promises to redraw the political landscape. For decades, the right and the left confronted each other. Now a centrist party looks certain to come out on top. Kadima has won votes on a pledge to continue the work of Ariel Sharon, the man many Israelis had come to trust with their future.
Far from distancing himself from the prime minister who lies in a coma, acting premier Ehud Olmert has wrapped himself in Sharon’s mantle. He has vowed that, if elected, he will press on with unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians. That strikes a chord with a nation faced with the election victory of Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Kadima’s Tzipi Livni, currently the foreign minister, has acknowledged that the high percentage of floating voters means victory would not be handed on a plate. She said her party would be ready to work with coalition partners who share its goals. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu has been trying to boost a flagging campaign. He is set to come third.
The long-time rival of Ariel Sharon said prayers at the Wailing Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. Pundits say Kadima’s most likely coalition partner would be Labour, led by Amir Peretz. He is tipped to come second.