Elections 2009 / Kadima: Center-left Voters Will Pick Us to Ensure Likud Defeat

FM Livni neck-to-neck with Likud in polls, finally receives outgoing PM Olmert's endorsement.

Kadima is hoping to beat Likud by taking votes from Labor and the New Movement-Meretz party while winning undecided center-left voters. Sources in Kadima say the center-left electorate is likely to choose Kadima because strengthening Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni is a way to "stop Netanyahu."

Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party have been neck-and-neck in the polls with Kadima.

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"It doesn't matter whether Meretz has seven or five seats and Labor has 16 or 14," a source close to Livni said on Sunday, referring to the main parties to the left of Kadima. What matters to the left is that only Tzipi can beat Bibi [Netanyahu]."

Livni made an appeal to the center-left at a Kadima rally Sunday at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. She repeatedly used the words "hope" and "despair." "We have a chance today to plant hope in the people of Israel. I believe that our lives here and Jewish history and tradition are also the hope," she said.

"Even before the results are known, we have proved that in tough times, even in times of despair, we can replace despair with hope, and we can also dream. We have proved that security does not belong only to the right and peace does not belong only to the left."

'Fight for every vote'

Livni also said she had had "enough strength to speak on the eve of these elections in the name of the common denominator, not in the name of fear, desperation and hatred."

Livni concluded by asking her audience to fight for every vote. "I believe that the task of leadership is to propose unity and hope. Leadership that deals only with intimidation cannot propose hope or speak in terms of unity," she said.

Young Kadima activists began their day on Sunday with a procession of cars and trucks from the center of the country to the north, playing pop music. Late Sunday night, after the rally at the Tel Aviv Fairgounds, Livni appeared a meeting in Ramat Aviv attended by dozens of undecided voters.

Earlier, Livni received a vote of confidence from outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert , who was ousted as party leader in part because of Livni's efforts. Speaking at a convention of the 18th Maccabiah Games, Olmert finally set aside the ambiguity that had surrounded his choice.

"It will come as no surprise when I say that I support Kadima and hope Tzipi Livni will be elected prime minister," Olmert said. "Tzipi Livni is the candidate that can lead the State of Israel. She has sensitivity and wisdom."

Sources close to Livni said they were pleased with Olmert's statement. During the Gaza operation, senior Kadima figures said Olmert was actually helping Netanyahu and hurting Livni.

In a campaign stop Monday, Livni will take the train to Be'er Sheva with other Kadima leaders.