Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni convened her party's top 40 candidates for a
pep talk at the party's Petah Tikva headquarters on Thursday night amid
polls showing the Likud's gap over Kadima continuing to widen as the
February 10 election approaches.
Kadima pollster Kalman Geyer presented the candidates with data indicating
that the race was much closer than this week's surveys have indicated. The
three most recent polls, published in Yisrael Hayom and broadcast on
Channels 2 and 1, give the Likud a lead of eight to 12 Knesset seats.
Party strategist Lior Chorev admitted that Kadima had been hurt by a
rightward shift in the public since Operation Cast Lead began on December
27. But he predicted that there was enough time before the election to
reduce the impact of the war.
"Within two weeks, people will forget that there was a war," Chorev said.
"We live in a country where no one even remembers that there was a terrorist
attack as soon as funerals are over."
MKs at the meeting admitted that they were not as optimistic. In closed
conversations they said there was only one eventuality that could turn
around the election: If a Kadima-led government succeeded in bringing home
kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.
"It is not ethical to connect Gilad Schalit to politics, but [his coming
home] could change the political situation," one MK said candidly.
In her speech to the party's candidates, Livni called Netanyahu "a terrible
prime minister" and reiterated her request for a debate. She complained that
the three candidates spoke separately at an economic conference in Tel Aviv
"If someone says [in their campaign ads that] they are strong and then
avoids a debate, it means he is strong only in slogans and he is not strong
enough to lead the country through its challenges," Livni said.