General Mofaz Runs for Office

With Iranian tycoons providing the funding and Arthur Finkelstein managing strategy, Shaul Mofaz is cutting into Tzipi Livni's lead for the Kadima leadership.

"If you don't use time to promote your goals and improve your situation, others are liable to do so to your detriment. To control the time dimension, it is necessary to take an initiative, operate on the basis of a rational plan and set a timetable for implementation." - Shaul Mofaz, remarks at Bar-Ilan University, May 2004

It's not easy to find the campaign headquarters of Shaul Mofaz. Bezeq does not list the phone number, and the candidate's blog, created with an investment of tens of thousands of shekels, makes no mention of the address. Only a request for a form to join the party leads to 8 Tfutsot Yisrael Street in Givatayim. The headquarters are here, in a huge building in an industrial-commercial area. The door is locked, and a suspicious guard wants to know exactly where the guest is headed. Inside, a few Kadima posters hang on the walls, along with one photograph of Mofaz.

The deadline for party registration expires in two days, but there is no sense of urgency in the offices. Five or six people sit at computers, speaking on the phone, smiling. On the wall is a map of the Land of Israel, and next to it a chart filled with names: every city and local council in the country, the name of the mayor or council head (red for Mofaz supporters, green for those who support others or are non-aligned), the number of registered party members, the number of those who back Mofaz and the goal for which campaign headquarters is aiming. The results of the latest polls, and the fact that some of the names on the wall have moved from green to red, indicate they are on the right path.

"Mofaz has a need to prove himself and get constant positive feedback about his work and about favors he does," says Y., a former senior army officer who has known Mofaz since his service in the elite Sayeret Matkal special forces unit, and is very fond of him. "On the other hand, Mofaz was the soldiers" chief of staff, spent a lot of time in the field, talked to them and was definitely not distant. He came to meetings with all the time in the world. He was patient, not short-tempered, listened and wrote down every word. When he summed up, you understood exactly what had to be done and that he wanted to see results." What primarily drives Mofaz is "the need to prove himself," people who know him agree. That is the wellspring of his ambition, which 40 years ago led him into an officers course, even though he had twice failed the entry tests, and which now might land him in the most important position in the country - prime minister.

Leaving home

Shaul Mofaz was born in Iran 60 years ago. In 1957, when he was nine, he immigrated to Israel with his family. The family lived in Eilat, and his father worked in the local municipality. Mofaz relates that because of their economic distress, his parents sent him, at the age of 14, to board at the agricultural school in Nahalal, the famous moshav, or cooperative farming village, where Moshe Dayan was born. One of Mofaz's most memorable remarks is related to this period. At home, he said, they ate thick slices of bread with a thin layer of margarine. "My father wanted very much for me to be an Israeli," he recalled tearfully three years ago in an interview on Yair Lapid's program on Channel 2. "I think that is why he decided to send me to the agricultural school in Nahalal. It was very hard for a 14-year-old youth; for him too, I think. The moment of his parting from me in Nahalal," he said, his cheeks glistening with tears, "is one of the moments that is engraved most deeply in my memory."

In 1966, Mofaz was drafted into the 890th Paratroops Battalion. As a squad commander, he failed in his attempts to enter an officers course, but was admitted after a successful ambush that he planned and executed, and became an outstanding officer. He rose through the army ranks, becoming commander of the 890th, commander of the Paratroops' commando unit, the brigade commander and the deputy commander of Sayeret Matkal, where he was Yoni Netanyahu's deputy in the 1976 Entebbe operation. He then became commander of the Officers School.

In his testimony, Mofaz rejected the remarks of the commander of the Border Police unit in Hebron, who claimed that the commander of the Judea Brigade, Colonel Meir Klifi, had prohibited soldiers from firing at settlers who were shooting to kill at Arabs. Mofaz stated: "Because we did not foresee a massacre like this, we did not issue rules of engagement for an event of this kind." He added that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) had no written rules for dealing with settlers who were violating the law. Later, though, it turned out that written rules did in fact exist. The commission exempted Mofaz from responsibility for the massacre. Mofaz went on to be appointed GOC Southern Command, head of the plans and policy directorate, head of operations directorate and deputy chief of staff. In July 1998, he was appointed chief of staff - the other candidate was Major General Matan Vilnai, now a Labor MK and deputy defense minister - at the recommendation of the defense minister, Yitzhak Mordechai.

Confidants of Mofaz have said that in recent years his relations with Mordechai have cooled. Mordechai declined to comment on this or be interviewed for this article. Mofaz's predecessor as chief of staff, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, also decided not to talk to Haaretz about him.As chief of staff, Mofaz was in charge of the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. It was on his watch that Israel and the territories were rocked by brutal terrorist attacks during the second intifada and the IDF adopted the "targeted assassinations" policy. At the end of March 2002, following a month in which some 130 Israelis were killed in attacks by suicide bombers, the IDF launched Operation Defensive Shield to conquer the cities of the West Bank. In Gaza, Mofaz was responsible for the assassinations of, among others, Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantissi. Mofaz concluded his tenure as chief of staff in July 2002. A few months later, in November, he joined the Likud under the leadership of Ariel Sharon and was appointed defense minister. In that capacity, he was constantly at odds with his former deputy, his successor as chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, who also declined to be interviewed for this article. The tension between them reached a peak when Mofaz and Sharon broke with custom by refusing to extend Ya'alon's term as chief of staff for an extra - fourth - year.

The central event in Mofaz's term as defense minister was Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Mofaz, who spoke out against the plan on many occasions, was the one who signed the evacuation orders and managed the defense establishment during the disengagement itself. In November 2005, after Sharon left the Likud and formed the new Kadima party under his leadership, Mofaz declared unequivocally that "you don't leave home" and that he was remaining in the Likud. But his loyalty to "home" barely lasted three days after his declaration. He joined Kadima and was placed in the eighth slot on the party's Knesset list. "Mofaz is giving new meaning to the concept of opportunism; his move reflects inconsistency and a lack of values," sources close to Benjamin Netanyahu said.

After the elections of March 2006 (which followed Sharon's incapacitation following a stroke), Labor Party leader Amir Peretz received the defense portfolio. Mofaz was appointed minister of transportation, deputy prime minister and minister in charge of Israel's strategic dialogue with the United States. Near the end of the Second Lebanon War, in the security cabinet meeting that authorized the final ground operation, Mofaz put forward an alternative plan: "You want to reach the Litani [River]? Then conquer the Litani. You will reach it within 48 hours and say that we won and that southern Lebanon is encircled. If you want, mop up the area from south to north." His plan was not accepted.

After the war, he said, "The management of the Lebanon War was confused and faltering." His political rivals are convinced that Mofaz himself is in no small measure to blame for this. This week, for example, the Labor Party issued the following statement: "Mofaz was chief of staff and defense minister for the six years that preceded the Second Lebanon War, and he bears central responsibility for the IDF's unpreparedness for the war. He failed in not making this state of affairs clear to the government on the eve of the war and shared in a large number of the faulty decisions in its course."

Mofaz is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College at Quantico, Virginia, and holds an undergraduate degree in business administration from Bar-Ilan University. He spent two years in pursuit of an MBA, but did not complete his studies. In 1974 he married Orit, an educator currently active in the Scouts movement, and the couple has four children: Maya (28), Yonatan (25), Itamar (21) and Noa (19).

The yellow notebook

For years, since his army days, Mofaz has carried a yellow notebook in which he sums up the meetings in which he participates. "He writes down everything," one of his advisers says. "He has crates filled with these notebooks at home. He takes his own notes and writes down what everyone says. I don't know whether he does it for a book or for a commission of inquiry, but he writes everything. It is said that he came to the Winograd Committee [which examined the management of the Second Lebanon War] with these notebooks."

It's likely he had a yellow notebook with him at a gathering he held for senior officers in Central Command during Operation Defensive Shield. B., a former senior officer, is still rattled by the memory of that meeting. "He said he wanted 10 [Palestinians] to be killed in each brigade sector every day, and it makes no difference from which organization. To my shame, no one got up and said it was illegal, but afterward we collected the battalion commanders and told them that with all due respect for the chief of staff, they had to act within the law and follow Central Command orders."

According to B., "Mofaz, along with others, developed a conception describing the intifada as a move planned by [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat, which we had to respond to with great force. I think that was a mistake, but the marking of the targets was also not always right. What, for example? The destruction of the headquarters of Jibril Rajub, who was a symbol of cooperation with us; the marking of the Palestinian Authority [PA] and its security apparatuses as the enemy; the fact that we attacked PA checkpoints; and the destruction, during Operation Defensive Shield, of all the Palestinian governmental mechanisms."

Did Operation Defensive Shield have no positive consequences?"Of course it did. But why did we reach a situation in which we had to execute it? And if we were already doing it, maybe it could have been done differently, so that today we would be in a better situation."Mofaz responds to this with sweeping cliches: "We were able to curb the murderous terror offensive that was rampaging in the streets of Israel. We did it by means of determination, tenacity, the courage of the IDF soldiers and commanders, and a strong leadership."

B. also has little good to say about Mofaz's behavior ahead of the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. "He was very much against the withdrawal under the conditions set by [Prime Minister Ehud] Barak, and engaged in foot-dragging in preparing the army. It would be useful to examine whether that foot-dragging had anything to do with the hasty withdrawal that was finally carried out. I remember a meeting he called shortly before the withdrawal. What he said there sounded more like a speech by the leader of the opposition than remarks by a chief of staff."

Mofaz confirms that he was against a unilateral withdrawal without an agreement from the southern Lebanon security zone, but states that he prepared the IDF for the event as though he were the one who had decided on it: "In practice, we removed the IDF from southern Lebanon in an operation that was planned carefully for long months, and of which I am proud to this day. We removed thousands of soldiers from southern Lebanon according to a precise plan, without one soldier being hurt, and we executed the government's decision to the letter. All the other allegations are no more than gossip."

One of ours

In the turbulent period of the terrorist attacks, the targeted assassinations and the operations throughout the West Bank, the satirical television program "A Wonderful Country" decided to portray Chief of Staff Mofaz as a "gever-gever" (a "man's man"). Muli Segev, the program's editor: "We chose that image in order to depict excessive brutality; I think Mofaz actually profited from it." The term "gever-gever" entered Israeli slang, though not necessarily as a singular depiction of Mofaz, who in the perception of many is a bland, mediocre figure.

Dr. Yariv Ben Eliezer, an expert on communications from the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, believes that the public's attitude toward Mofaz is tinged with racism. In this connection, he recalls the recent reports about the level of his English: "I have been studying politics for many years, and almost every time I was connected with someone of Mizrahi origin [referring to Jews of Middle Eastern or North African descent] the argument against him was that he has a problem with English," Ben Eliezer says. "No one said that about Rabin, who was inarticulate in both Hebrew and English."

Three months ago, Mofaz hired the services of the strategic adviser Arthur Finkelstein - who did work for Netanyahu in the past - for his campaign to win the Kadima primary. George Birnbaum, Finkelstein's Israeli partner, says that the senior adviser visits Israel every few weeks, and between visits they speak on the phone about Mofaz - "sometimes 20 times in a day."

The contact was initiated by Eli Kamir, Mofaz's media adviser. "We got to know Mofaz about three years ago, when Eli Kamir asked Arthur and me to meet with him," Birnbaum relates. "At that time we did not have a professional partnership, but when the elections in Kadima rolled around, they called and asked us to work with him." He declines to say how much Mofaz is paying them, noting only that it is "less than hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Mofaz's security experience is almost the only card you are playing. Shouldn't you be presenting other sides, too?"It is right to go with what is most important for the public and its connection to the candidate. In Israel, that means security. That is the aspect that has to be compared between him and the other candidates."

What are the main problems that have come up in the polls you are conducting?"The truth is that we haven't seen any problems. What we have seen is that when people get to known him better, they have a higher regard for him. So our best prospect lies in an attempt to connect him with the registered party members. Immediately after the elections he will need that connection with the whole nation and not only with the Kadima voters. It is important for people to know the person, not only his profession. To know that he is a good husband, a good father."

How do you combat his bland image?"It is important for me to have people know that he also has a vision in the spheres of education, the economy, things like that. It is important for people to know that there is no chance of finding a leader who has years of experience in both education, the economy and in security as well."

Have you encountered racist reactions to his candidacy?"It is our experience that Sephardim vote for Sephardim more than for Ashkenazim. That is an inbuilt structure, not a matter of racism. All over the world, people look at a candidate and ask if he is one of theirs. I do think there is racism in this country, but I don't see it having much impact in the internal Kadima elections."

Does he plan to play the "ethnic card"?"Just as Obama doesn't have to tell people he is black, because it's obvious, Mofaz doesn't have to tell people, either. If you are Sephardi, then you see that he is one of yours. People will look at him and understand that that is what he is."

Persian carpet

In his public appearances, Mofaz takes care not to come across as an up-to-date version of David Levy or Aryeh Deri, and says nothing about his ethnic origins. Still, it is a significant issue for him. The Persian community in Israel and the United States is his economic mainstay, and its support for him is blatant. Among his leading backers are the tycoons Nissan Khakshouri and Izak and Younes Nazarian. Khakshouri, an Israeli businessman who established a "citizens" association to support Shaul Mofaz three years ago, thinks that the transportation minister is not worthy to serve as prime minister. Mofaz, he says, is not yet "ripe" for the post, but neither are the others, so he is sticking with Mofaz.

Khakshouri is a co-owner of the Club Hotel time-sharing chain in Israel and of a casino in Loutraki, Greece. In the past, he gave generously to settler associations that are trying to "judaize" East Jerusalem. He met Mofaz when he was serving as chief of staff, through his friend, Younes Nazarian. "We met at events in honor of people of Iranian origin," Khakshouri relates. "We supported a project of his called 'Atidim' [from the Hebrew word for 'future'], to strengthen education in the periphery. He solicited us in support of the project." In the spring of 2005, Khakshouri established the citizens' association, at Mofaz's request, in order to raise funds and underwrite political activity for the then defense minister. According to the association's charter, its purpose is "to advance the public status of Shaul Mofaz in Israel and internationally and to organize public support for him, to advance Mofaz's social, political and security doctrine."

The association has filed only one report so far with the Registrar of Associations, which sums up activity for 2005. In that year it raised NIS 1.6 million, of which NIS 334,000 went for "professional salaries" and NIS 300,000 to pay for public opinion surveys. The association paid thousands of dollars a month for a long period to the PR firm of Motti Morell and Ronen Tzur, which provided close strategic and media advice to Mofaz. In addition, Khakshouri reveals, the association underwrote parlor meetings and gatherings in support of Mofaz. According to Khakshouri, Mofaz himself is the association's chief fundraiser.

"Every Iranian who visits Israel wants to meet with him," Khakshouri notes. "When I meet with them, they suddenly tell me: 'I visited with Shaul Mofaz.'" Who, for example? "The Persian families: the Aharonians, the Kalimians, Jack Mafar, the Nasimis." Other members of the association, in addition to Khakshouri, are Moshe Nativ, a retired major general; the head of the Nahal Sorek local council Eli Oskazidou; and an old army buddy, Shmuel Rosenberg, who is convinced that Mofaz is worthy to be prime minister, even though he disappointed him twice: when he left the Likud and when he supported the disengagement (To his credit, let it be said that he did it without clashes between the army and the settlers). The association official in charge of the donations, Solly Carmi, is also a former military man, a pilot in the reserves who worked for Khakshouri after concluding his army career and is today the director general of the Association of Iranian Immigrants in Israel. At the beginning of 2006, relations between Khakshouri and Mofaz foundered. "I have ties with Bibi [Benjamin] Netanyahu, too," Khakshouri says. "When there was talk about establishing Kadima, Bibi called me and said, 'You are friends with him' Tell him not to move to Kadima." I called Mofaz and he said he was not moving to Kadima. He started to prepare for the leadership race in the Likud, and the association helped him with all that."

Two days before Mofaz bolted to Kadima, Khakshouri was asked to put up a bond of half a million shekels for the bank account of Mofaz's campaign headquarters. "And suddenly, without any prior announcement, he moved to Kadima," Khakshouri relates. "He made me look ridiculous, not only in Netanyahu's eyes, but in the eyes of people we spoke to. On Thursday I worked until midnight to organize everything, because the elections [in the Likud] were approaching. On Friday we arranged things financially and sent letters of support and brochures to party members. Before Shabbat, Mofaz calls me to say that he was in the Carmel Market [in Tel Aviv] and was received 'like a king.' On Sunday, Solly Carmi comes in and says, 'Listen, he is meeting with the prime minister. He is going to Kadima.' I thought he was joking."

After that, Khakshouri refused to speak to Mofaz, but spoke his mind about the politician who had disappointed him. "His first mistake was to fire the chief of staff, Ya'alon." Khakshouri said at the time. "An officer does not do that to an officer, unless he is the prime minister's gofer. Another weak point of his was that immediately after concluding his term as chief of staff he was appointed defense minister without having been a member of Knesset. He was dependent on Sharon's good graces, and Sharon could have kicked him out at any moment. Everyone felt that."

It was a Swiss-based mutual friend, Jack Mafar, who effected a reconciliation between the two; Khakshouri agreed to meet with Mofaz. Since then they have been on good terms, and the association Khakshouri founded is working energetically to get Mofaz elected Israel's next prime minister, even though Khakshouri is convinced that Mofaz is not yet ready for that job.

What does he believe in - Greater Israel?"In my opinion, yes."

Then why did he agree to take part in the disengagement?"He was under heavy pressure. A lot of people these days do things contrary to what they think. We met with him a year before the disengagement, my partner Nachman Zoldan and I, and tried to convince him that the disengagement was a mistake that must not be made. He told us: 'There is nothing to be done, it is final.'"

Mofaz is considered the right wing of Kadima. "You will not see Mofaz hugging [Palestinian President] Abu Mazen the way Olmert did. He doesn't think we have to hurry to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and give them more and more, and he is against the partition of Jerusalem. He thinks that there is no partner now and no one to make peace with."

Talk like that is music to Khakshouri's ears. One Friday morning a few weeks ago, Khakshouri took his friends from affluent Herzliya Pituah on a tour of Samaria, covering settlements from Itamar to Shiloh. Still under the powerful impression of the tractor attacks in Jerusalem, he would like to see the villages from which the perpetrators came razed to the ground. "In Iran, 30 people were recently executed by hanging in the city squares. No one heard about it."

One of Mofaz's advisers recognizes the importance of the Khakshouri group. "The connection with the Persian clique is extremely interesting, because it is they more than he who are the leading element there. They are very much into the ethnic thing. Previously they took pride in [former president] Moshe Katsav, and now in him [Mofaz]. He liked it and it made him feel good, because they are all front-rank businessmen. It is an organized group. They have a lot of activists, and they connected with him even before he became chief of staff. He went to their ceremonies, such as when they awarded scholarships. They came to the Defense Ministry and met with him. This is all very natural for them, a 'he is one of ours' thing. He exploited it very much when it came to raising money for the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers and for the LIBI fund. They are to this day the major donors there."

Are they still behind his funding today?"They are, but there also others. By the way, he is very cautious and strict in regard to donations. He always said that if there were deviations, he would pay out of his own pocket."

Centers of support

Eli Kamir, the central figure in Mofaz's staff, is a former journalist for the mass-circulation daily Maariv and has been Mofaz's media adviser since the time he was defense minister. According to an article published two years ago by Amir Buchbut, the military correspondent of Maariv, Mofaz was shaped and upgraded by Kamir. There was a change in the tone of speech and the style of dress. He was briefed at length ahead of every interview, and was even sent home to sleep before the interview with Nissim Mishal [host of an influential, though now defunct, current affairs television program] so he would look fresh after a night of meetings.?

In addition to Kamir, Mofaz has two close political advisers: Etti Kalimi, sometimes described as - Mofaz's Shula Zaken - referring to Ehud Olmert's longtime right-hand woman - and Roi Tomer. A person who was present at several meetings held at Mofaz's headquarters in Givatayim relates that from the candidate's viewpoint the battle for the leadership of Kadima is being conducted like a war.

"He analyzes politics the way he analyzes a military operation or a battle," says the mayor, who supports Mofaz. "How to get there and attack the target, how to defeat the enemy, the actions the enemy wants to undertake, what I will do as a diversion, how to vanquish the enemy. The enemy now is [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni."

It is clear to everyone that even before Olmert announced that he would not run in the primary, his people had begun to promote Mofaz as his successor. One activist in Mofaz's campaign headquarters says that until recently she worked for Olmert, but has now switched to Mofaz. "I am not the only one, either, and I don't think it would have been done without coordination," she says with a half-smile. "The minister is very careful not to hurt Olmert. He has not spoken out against him, has not given his headquarters publicity and has not put up posters outside."

Have the prime minister who is fond of cigars and likes to travel first class and the poor immigrant kid who reached the top become close? A Mofaz confidant guffaws. "He is the opposite of Olmert. He will always show up in a simple shirt, and you won't see him with cigars or fancy pens. You see the simplest person possible. These are relations based on vested interests."

How did Mofaz succeed in narrowing the lead enjoyed by Livni in the polls? The mayor who supports him explains: "Mofaz went on the stump. Every evening he attended two or three gatherings. He wasn?t ashamed to appear even if there were only 10 people, and articulate his credo." According to the mayor, there are heads of local authorities who do not belong to Kadima but who got people to register for the party in Mofaz's name."Those people will vote for Mofaz, but in the general elections they will not vote for Kadima."

What motivates a mayor to do that?"Maybe they think Mofaz will help them somewhere down the line. But I think Mofaz was constrained by budgets and wasn?t really able to help in the past few years. It could be that by coming to meetings he helps them politically."

The former Olmert activist confirms that this is the strategy: ?Mofaz is working with mayors, including those who are not from Kadima. He helped them in all kinds of ways and now they are helping him, asking the party members in their city to vote for him.? A case in point, Mofaz headquarters says, is Shimon Sussan, head of the Modi?in District Regional Council. "I am a member of the Likud and I vote Likud," he says in response to a question. "I am not out to get people to join Kadima, but if any registered Kadima members should ask me what to do, I will tell them to vote for Mofaz."

Among the mayors and council heads who support Mofaz openly are mayors Yona Yahav (Haifa), Zvi Bar (Ramat Gan), Yaakov Terner (Be'er Sheva), Meir Nitzan (Rishon Letzion), Jackie Sabag (Nahariya), and Shmuel Rifman, the head of the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council.

Engraved on his banner

There is no doubt that Mofaz was disappointed when he was appointed transportation minister in the Olmert government. At the same time, he found himself in a ministry with a huge budget for infrastructure development, with the possibility of appointing people to key positions and maintaining ongoing ties with mayors and local council heads. This is now the foundation on which he is organizing in an effort to defeat Tzipi Livni in next month?s primary. Take, for example, Ina Smaliansky, from the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Bialik, a Kadima member since last August. She has registered a hundred people for the Mofaz camp in Kadima, she says. "My career is chairwoman of the forum of immigrant associations in the Krayot [the Haifa suburbs]," she says. "Because I am a central activist, I travel a lot to the party and to meetings and I know all the candidates."

She has already drawn on Mofaz?s help twice. "A very outstanding case, which has just now been solved, has to do with the Tel Regev Cemetery," she says. "There was no public transportation there. I went directly to Mofaz, through Dimitri Rozinsky, his adviser on immigrant affairs. We sat with the minister and I explained the situation. In the wake of the request, he ordered the matter to be dealt with. Egged [the country?s largest bus company] didn't want any part of it, but the minister blew his stack, just like in the army - if the commander says do it, why isn't it done? In the end, the problem was solved, and as of this month we have a bus line going there.?

Mofaz denies this vehemently. He says that the issue of public transportation to the cemetery was first put to him by cabinet minister Yitzhak Cohen, who is in charge of religious services. There were also many requests from bereaved families and grieving citizens, who had no access to the graves of their loved ones. His office states, "The minister works intensively to solve problems and distress in the sphere of transportation for whoever appeals to him, irrespective of his political affiliation, and will continue to do so."

There have been reports in recent months that many employees of bodies connected with the Transportation Ministry, such as Haifa Port, have registered with Kadima and will support Mofaz. Guy Leshem reported in the Haaretz financial paper The Marker that Mofaz worked for the reappointment of Mendi Zaltsman, who is close to the leaders of the Likud and Kadima, as manager of Haifa Port, even though in the past he was faulted for his work and was said to have tried to sabotage the reform of the ports. According to Leshem, Meir Turjeman, the head of the workers committee in the port, asked Mofaz to appoint Zaltsman, who is acceptable to the employees. At the same time, Turjeman organized a political rally in support of Mofaz.

According to another report, more than a thousand employees of Egged joined Kadima in the past year. By chance or not, in January 2007 the Transportation Ministry announced a reform of public transport, in which Egged would be deprived of more clusters of routes. In March, Mofaz announced that the reform had failed and ordered the establishment of a public committee to examine the continuation of the reform project. Amos Uzani, whose strained relations with Mofaz led to his resignation as director general of Haifa Port, is sharply critical of the minister: "He made contact with the workers committees and visited them four times without the presence of management. I worked under him for two years, and not once did he take an interest in the important issues, in development or procurement."

It is actually Itzhak Regev, a supporter of Livni, who describes the whole picture: "Channel 2 reported that Haifa Port joined the Mofaz camp. That is untrue. These guys - Egged, the Electric Corporation, the port - have a gimmick: they need to look after themselves, and they have representatives in all the parties."

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