Kadima Party Primaries Underway

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - The long-awaited primaries to elect a new chairman for the ruling Kadima party are underway.

Leading the race are Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.

The other two contenders, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit trail in third and fourth place, respectively.

Dichter, former head of the Shin Bet (General Security Agency), said he'll be contented to come in third.

"I hope to receive 5,000 or perhaps 6,000 votes. I'm not disappointed or frustrated," he said, adding that perhaps he should have started campaigning earlier, but he'll happily back whoever wins.

Livni and Mofaz, who have been on the campaign trail for nearly a month, have tried to articulate their differences to party voters.

This week, Mofaz, who predicted he'll win by 43 percent of the vote -- 3 percent more than the minimum required -- said he'll form a government before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, only two weeks away.

Livni, on the other hand, seems less threatened by the possibility of elections, should she be the winning candidate and be unable to form a new government.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, facing possible indictment on charges of corruption, bribery, money laundering, and breach of trust, said he will officially resign as soon as a new party chairman is elected.

Mofaz, a former IDF (Israel Defense Forces) chief of general staff, who served as defense minister in the government of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, turned over the strategic Philadelphi Corridor -- the narrow strip of land between the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian Sinai -- to Egypt following Israel's pullout from the Gush Katif Settlement Bloc in August 2005.

Livni, who has led the Israeli team in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, is hoping a high voter turnout will give her a 20 percent lead over the other candidates.

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