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Mofaz Must Warm Up to Israeli Public

Starting today, Shaul Mofaz is the political alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu. Until yesterday, Mofaz was Tzipi’s problem. Now he’s Bibi’s problem. It’s still too early to predict how much of a threat Mofaz and Kadima will present to Netanyahu and the Likud, but one should not underestimate Mofaz: he is determined, he’s hungry and he has his eye on the prize.

Mofaz has been waiting for this moment for three and a half years. Last night, he proved he knows how to run a flawless political campaign and mobilize voters. During the coming days, he will remind Israelis that he served as IDF chief of staff and minister of defense, and that he has plenty to say about Iran and about social issues, which are likely to return to the headlines this summer.

Mofaz has an image problem. He is perceived by many as a cold and unfeeling general, belligerent and right-wing. While it’s true he is a general, he is far from unfeeling, far from being a right-winger, as the political plan he formulated two years ago showed, and he is not a warmonger either. He is a moderate, no less so than Livni. His mission now is to sell himself to a skeptical public. One could say he is working on borrowed time.

Netanyahu was not hoping for a Mofaz victory, as Tzipi Livni claimed. People close to Netanyahu heard the truth from him recently: He was hoping for a Livni victory. He understood, like many, that Livni is finished. She’s history. Three years as a failed opposition leader wiped out her chances of ever being elected prime minister. Bibi wanted to run against Tzipi in the next elections – he knows her, and isn’t impressed. Mofaz, on the other hand, is a riddle, an enigma. He is the unknown, and could still surprise us. If there is anything prime ministers don’t like, it is running against the unknown.

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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