Israel’s finance minister came out in support of Tzipi Livni’s bid to head the ruling Kadima Party.
Roni Bar-On announced Thursday that he backs Livni, currently Israel’s foreign minister, in her campaign to replace Ehud Olmert as Kadima leader next month and, eventually, as premier.
The endorsement by Bar-On, among the most senior Kadima officials, looked likely to firm up Livni’s position as front-runner in the party race. Her closest rival is Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former military chief who has touted his security credentials in arguing that he is the best person to lead the Jewish state in hazardous times.
Olmert, who announced this month that he will not take part in Kadima’s Sept. 17 leadership election and will later step down as Israel’s prime minister, is widely perceived to be hostile to Livni. Yet Bar-On is one of Olmert’s closest allies in the Cabinet.
Livni, who argues that she has the best chance of keeping centrist Kadima in power against the challenge posed by Israel’s opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party, previously won the support of another Cabinet member, Environment Minister Gideon Ezra.