After winning the Kadima primaries contest on Tuesday, new party chairman Shaul Mofaz called on his rival Tzipi Livni to join him in the party's efforts to pose a serious challenge to the Netanyahu government.
The Iranian-born MK Mofaz, whose long career includes serving as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and as defense minister under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, won 61.7 percent of the vote in Tuesday's contest - a total of 23,987 votes, while Livni took 37.23 percent - a total of 14,516 votes.
In his victory speech, Mofaz told those gathered at the Kadima party headquarters that the party would replace the Netanyahu government in Israel's next elections, and appealed to Israelis to have faith in the party's new journey "to the Israel we lost, that we dreamt about, that can be different."
He emphasized the need for a strong and united party following the primaries, and called on Livni to join him in the effort to "return Israel to the right path."
"Tzipi, your place is with us," he said.
Earlier on Tuesday night, Livni said in response to Mofaz's victory, “I am grateful to each and every one of you for the embrace of faith, preparation and friendship. I believe that the state deserves the leadership you are worthy of. These are elections, and these are the results.”
In another speech later on Tuesday night, Livni thanked party members and citizens for their support, and said that she telephoned Mofaz to congratulate him on the victory. "These are the results," she said, adding that she would not be answering any questions, as it had been a long night, and she was going to sleep.
Former Kadima leader Ehud Olmert, who is on a visit to the U.S., phoned to congratulate Mofaz on his victory. The two discussed maintaining unity in Kadima, even after the primaries. The former prime minister promised to make every effort to help Mofaz to keep the party united.
Avi Dichter, who dropped out of the Kadima leadership contest last week, said of Mofaz's victory: “Today there is one winner, the Kadima party. There is no doubt that the decision to join forces for the future of Kadima was the right one. “
A relatively small number of Kadima members, much lower than in the previous leadership contest in 2008, voted in almost 200 ballot boxes located in over 104 municipalities during the vote on Tuesday. Both Livni, Kadima’s chairwoman who is seeking reelection, and her rival, MK Shaul Mofaz, encouraged party members to vote, hoping that higher participation would increase their chances of winning.
Mofaz voted on Tuesday morning, shortly after the polls opened. He arrived at the Kfar Sava ballot box, accompanied by his wife Orit, after visiting his parents’ graves. He was also surrounded by dozens of supporters who chanted slogans.
“I intend to win the general elections and bring [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu down,” Mofaz said. “Our country deserves a new social agenda, a different government system, equality of civic duties and more serious attempts to achieve peace in our region.”
Labor party chairperson Shelly Yachimovich congratulated Mofaz on his victory, calling him "a worth candidate, someone who has given much to the state of Israel."
She added, however, that her party was still be the only ideological alternative to the current government. "Unfortunately, over the last three years, Kadima has not been a worthy alternative to Netanyahu's government, not economically, not socially, not politically, and not in terms of democracy or law and order. Under my leadership, the Labor party will bring about change in all of these areas."
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