It is still ahead in the run-up to Tuesday’s Israeli general election. But the centrist Kadima Party has lost more of its big lead over rivals, according to opinion polls. Elder statesman Shimon Peres has been at the forefront of campaigning. But commentators are keen to see just how well Kadima will do without its founder at the helm. With Ariel Sharon still in a coma, acting Premier Ehud Olmert now leads the party.
He has said he will unilaterally create permanent borders for Israel within four years if Kadima wins. “There is a new policy in Israel which we call unilateralism,” said political analyst Danny Rubenstein of Israel’s “Haaretz” newspaper. “On one side, we are doing what is good for Israel and we don’t care, if I may say so, what is going on on the other side.” He added that the policy had become much more popular after Hamas’s victory in Palestinian elections in January. Even if Kadima takes the 35 or so seats in the Knesset that surveys predict, it will have to find partners in government. The centre-left Labour Party led by Amir Peretz is widely seen as the top candidate. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is trailing a distant third in pre-election surveys. Netanyahu opposes Kadima’s plan to draw a permanent border between Israel and the West Bank by evacuating isolated Jewish settlements while strengthening the bigger blocs – describing it as “giving away something for nothing.”