Kadima

(Forward)
   The name adopted by the new political party established by Ariel Sharon upon his departure from the Likud Party on 21 November 2005. The leadership of the party was transferred to Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the debilitating stroke suffered by Sharon on 4 January 2006. Olmert led the party to victory in the 28 March 2006 general election, winning 29 seats in the 17th Knesset. Kadima was the largest party represented in the 31st government of Israel presented by Ehud Olmert on 4 May 2006.
   In the campaign leading up to the March 2006 election, Kadima sought to portray itself as a centrist alternative to the two traditional ideological poles in Israeli electoral politics represented by Likud and the Israel Labor Party. It acknowledged the demographic and political reality leading to additional disengagements in the West Bank. Olmert also declared that, under his leadership, the 17th Knesset would consolidate in a written constitution Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic state, including determining its final borders within two years. While it preferred to achieve this goal through negotiations, Kadima would act unilaterally in the absence of a credible Palestinian negotiating partner if necessary.
   Olmert specified that his government would hold on to the three major West Bank settlement blocs of Ariel, Gush Etzion Bloc, and Ma'aleh Adumim in a permanent agreement with the Palestinians. Moreover, Israel's eastern border, that is, the settlements of the Jordan Valley, "cannot be renounced," Olmert asserted. The counterter-rorism barrier would be completed at an expedited pace, with priority given to the Jerusalem region, and Jerusalem would be "kept united." Kadima would not forgo the pursuit of "diplomatic horizons" should they present themselves, but it would not negotiate with Hamas. In the current context, this meant that Olmert would try to maintain a dialogue with Palestinian Authority president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas as a counterweight to Hamas.
   Despite the violent confrontations that had occurred between militant settlers and Israeli soldiers sent to dismantle the illegal settlement of Amona in February 2006, Olmert pledged to maintain a dialogue with responsible settlers and to treat them respectfully. He also promised to make clear his intentions with regard to the evacuation of settlements from the outset.
   Domestically, Kadima portrayed itself as a pragmatic midpoint between the conservative "trickle down" economics of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party and the "neo-socialism" of the Israel Labor Party. Responding to Netanyahu's 2006 campaign pledge to eradicate Israel's poverty crisis in three years, Olmert said, "Even in seven years, we won't completely eradicate poverty but we will create a different socioeconomic dynamic."
   The challenge for Olmert and Kadima's leadership was to use the party's success at the polls in the 2006 Knesset election as the basis upon which to construct a credible, permanent, centrist third alternative to Likud and the Israel Labor Party for Israeli voters.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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