The ruling Kadima party has been in power since it was founded in 2005 [GALLO/GETTY]

Politics in Israel are increasingly about personalities and often boil down to who the voter would prefer to have a drink with. 
 
Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and leader of the Kadima party, has been cultivating a clean-cut image ahead of the polls on February 10 and is trying to convince voters that she is one of them.

She has promised Israelis who have become weary of corruption in politics that she, and her party, can provide a government they can trust.
 
The three-week war in Gaza in January 2009 reminded Israelis that they like strong, tried-and-tested leaders and despite her relative inexperience, Livni is trying to convince voters that she is that kind of politician.
 
Akiva Eldar, the chief political columnist of the Israeli daily Haaretz, said: "Kadima is trying to consolidate the leadership of Livni and convince the machoistic Israelis that despite the fact she is not a general, and she is a woman after all, that she can still be tough."

Party politics 

In 2005, Ariel Sharon, the then Israeli prime minister, was locked in a fierce political battle with members of his Likud party over his plans to unilaterally dismantle and disengage Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip.

He believed that Likud politics restricted his manoeuvrability on negotiations with the Palestinians.

Sharon split from Likud and founded the Kadima (or 'forward') party on November 24, 2005.

Several high-profile politicians from Likud and to a lesser degree from Labour broke ranks with their parties and joined Kadima, including Livni, the then justice minister, and Ehud Olmert, the former mayor of Jerusalem.

Sharon suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma in January 2006 and the party leadership was passed on to Olmert.

Negotiations with the Palestinians

Though Kadima stood as a proponent of change and disengagement from Gaza, the party agenda called for Jerusalem to remain an integral ("undivided capital") part of the state of Israel, which would also retain several large settlements in the West Bank.

Kadima does advocate a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict calling on Israelis to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians in order to maintain Israel's Jewish majority. Kadima has also called on all Palestinian factions to disarm, disavow "terrorism", and recognise the Jewish state as pre-conditions for the two-state solution.

The Kadima leadership has always supported the road map mechanism of negotiations, as proposed by George Bush, the former US president, in 2002.

On the economic front, Kadima has pushed for capitalist, free-market growth and has promised to secure a national pension plan and increase social security benefits.

In 2006 Knesset elections, Kadima won 29 seats in the 120-member parliament.

Current opinion polls are projecting that Kadima could win between 23 and 25 seats. However, even if Kadima emerges with the most seats, analysts believe that Livni will not be able to cobble together a coalition.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies