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The Kadima Party officially tapped Vice Premier Shimon Peres as its presidential candidate yesterday.

With two exceptions, all the faction members at yesterday's meeting supported Peres. However, defections are considered likely, particularly among the party's former Likud members. Marina Solodkin did not sign Peres's form, opting instead for Labor's Colette Avital, while Zeev Elkin supported Likud's Reuven Rivlin. Elkin said the presidential vote is personal and should not involve party discipline.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he plans to "invest effort and time in getting Shimon Peres elected." Olmert said that if someone were to profile the ideal president, they would find themselves describing Peres. "Israel has a golden opportunity to elect such a worthy man to this important post."

But former coalition whip Avigdor Yitzhaki warned during the meeting that Peres could lose in his bid for the presidency.

MK Haim Ramon said he had told Peres his chances were 50 percent. Yitzhaki commented that in an earlier conversation, Ramon had been more pessimistic than Yitzhaki was about Peres's chances. "I guess you convinced me," Ramon answered.

The two are among the most experienced lawmakers, so their assessments carry a great deal of weight.

Yitzhaki said that other candidates should have been considered, hinting at Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. However, he stressed that he plans to vote for Peres. Solodkin warned of a possible disgrace for "both a great man and the party."

Some right-leaning party members expressed their support for Peres in the meeting, including Otniel Schneller and coalition whip Yoel Hasson, who said: "I was hardly raised on Peres's doctrine, but everyone understands that he is the most worthy."