Good news for Ariel Sharon’s new party – two opinion polls published in major daily newspapers suggest Kadima would win the March election without itsgravely-ill leader. They also indicate that it would fare particularly well with veteran politician Shimon Peres at its helm, although he has not made his intentions known. The former prime minister left the Labour party to give his full backing to Kadima when it was founded in November.
However, at the age of 82, he may not want the pressure of the top job. A far less likely successor to Sharon is Labour leader Amir Peretz. Although he inflicted a surprise defeat on Peres for the party’s highest post, he is seen as too soft on the Palestinian issue by a majority of Israelis. A better bet is acting prime minister and Kadima number two, Ehud Olmert. He is viewed as a measured centrist who would follow Sharon’s line on the peace process. But he is not a military man and some wonder whether he would command enough respect to negotiate on vital security issues.
Another name being floated is Tzippi Livni, the minister of justice. She also walked out of Likud to join Kadima. Israelis are continuing to hope that none of these alternatives become necessary, and that their leader who survived so many political and military battles pulls through this one.