With Gaza War Over, Election Cranks Up

Rivalries return as outgoing PM Olmert and Labor leader Barak come under fire for denying Kadima chief Livni credit for Gaza truce.

With the fighting in the Gaza Strip coming to an end, the political scene is quickly heating up, as Kadima, Likud and Labor prepare their campaigns for the February 10 elections.

After the cabinet meeting yesterday, sources said Vice Premier Haim Ramon and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On complained that in the text of the cabinet's decision on a unilateral cease-fire, the contribution of foreign minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni had not been mentioned.

"It used to be that you were a troika. What happened now that you became a couple?" Ramon asked to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

For his part, Olmert applauded the opposition for their stance during the war, adding that "I would like to think that no politician will do a thing that will undermine the gains of the operation."

Likud and Labor, meanwhile, will start their political campaigns today.

Likud is running under the banner "Strong on Defense, Strong on the Economy." During a visit to Soroka Medical Center yesterday, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that "we have a strong nation and a strong army that has delivered strong blows against Hamas, but unfortunately the job is not yet over."

Kadima is also beginning to campaign; sources in the party responded to claims by Likud members that the job of prime minister is "too big" for Livni. "Netanyahu has always been a big talker," one of them said.