Olmert: Kadima's Knesset list will shape Israel's borders
Kadima chooses 50 names for its Knesset list; Sharon not listed because he could not sign official form.
Kadima presented its list Tuesday of 50 candidates vying for Knesset seats in the March 28 parliamentary election.
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in his address at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem that the party would forge ahead with efforts to resolve Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.
"The staff that is sitting here in this auditorium will help lead Israel to two central futures - shaping a permanent border for the State of Israel as a country with a clear and solid Jewish majority, and fighting the socio-economic gap which is threatening the social stability of Israel."
In his address, Olmert vowed to fulfill the goals set by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, alluding to last year's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a move whose wide popularity Sharon had sought to capitalize on when he quit the rightist Likud party in November to found Kadima.
Sharon's departure from the political scene was made official on Tuesday by the absence of his name from the list of candidates unveiled by the party he founded.
Kadima had wanted to list Sharon, incapacitated by a January 4 stroke, as a candidate symbolically, despite his being in a coma in hospital.
But Sharon cannot run in the ballot because he could not sign a form to confirm his candidacy for Kadima, a party spokeswoman said.
"He could not sign the form for joining Kadima, that is why he didn't get a spot," party spokeswoman Maya Jacobs said.
It will be the first election in three decades in which Sharon, 77, has not run.
"All our hearts are with him," Olmert said. "Kadima was born thanks to the insistence and bravery of party chairman Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Kadima is bringing forth impressive energy."
Olmert also alluded in his address to the electoral victory of Hamas militants who trounced the longtime dominant Fatah party in a January 25 Palestinian Authority parliamentary poll.
"We are not sent into a panic by external threats nor the events of recent days," Olmert said. Israel has said it would refuse talks with a Palestinian government that included Hamas, a group committed to Israel's destruction.
Of the 50 candidates announced, veteran statesman Shimon Peres was ranked number two behind Olmert, followed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a former Mossad intelligence agent.
Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter took the number five spot, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz the eighth.
The party list also included six Russian speaking candidates, following weeks of crisis regarding the lack of Russian contenders.