Ex-spy Master Avi Dichter Gets Kadima Party Assignment

Former Shin Bet chief to head the election-day headquarters; promised top party position.

Former Shin Bet security services chief Avi Dichter will head the election-day headquarters of Kadima. The decision followed talks over the past few days between Dichter and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Dichter is expected to roll up his sleeves after he returns from Washington next week. He is also tipped for a top position on the party Knesset slate, after ministers Ehud Olmert (Finance) and Tzipi Livni (Justice). Olmert and Livni are expected to get slots two and three, after Sharon, though the prime minister has not indicated which of these will go first.

Dichter's official inclusion in Kadima further firms up the leadership of the new party. Olmert is chairman of the election headquarters. Livni will chair the media headquarters, where MK Haim Ramon will also work, and Deputy Education Minister Majali Wahabi will head the election headquarters for the Arab community.

Shimon Peres will not have a position in the election headquarters. On Sunday, he and Sharon will hold a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Residence for the official announcement of their partnership following the resignation of Peres from the Labor Party last Wednesday.

The press conference is mainly a photo opportunity. It follows recent focus group studies pointing to support for the addition to Kadima of Peres.

The Likud is already planning to use photos of Sharon and Peres together as part of its campaign, whose message will be "A vote for Sharon is a vote for Peres."

In weekend interviews, Peres told CNN that he is not abandoning his positions or his Labor Party values; rather, he is changing the framework since the old one is not suitable to the new reality in which promoting peace takes the highest priority. He said that cooperating with Sharon will improve the chances for peace after the elections. Peres called on Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz to join a coalition with Sharon after the elections to promote peace.

Sharon intends to ask Kadima's newest acquisitions, including Prof. Uriel Reichman and former Education Ministry director-general Ronit Tirosh, to the party's Knesset faction meeting tomorrow.

On Thursday the party is planning the official opening of its election headquarters in rented offices in Petah Tikva.

Aides to Sharon said this weekend that the party's rise in the polls did not surprise them. They responded to questions about the role of the "Likud rebels" in the disintegration of that party by saying, "They realized what they did after it was too late.