Head of the Labor Party
The Moroccan-born Peretz, a trade union leader and member of the country's traditionally conservative, working-class Sephardi population, shocked observers last year when he beat out Labor stalwart Shimon Peres for leadership of that party.
Drawbacks: Peretz is rumored to speak some Arabic, so he may be able to talk to Israel's neighbors in their own language, but what about its friends? His English skills—increasingly an unofficial requirement for the top spot—have been the subject of intense speculation. (The TV networks have brought on experts to assess his grasp of the language.) Peretz is betting that a conflict-weary public may be ready to focus on domestic concerns. Although he spent a year recuperating from battlefield injuries incurred during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Peretz doesn't have the hard-core security bona fides Israelis may be looking for: The outsider candidate, largely untested on the foreign policy front, is a member of Peace Now, the Israeli pacifist organization.
Vice premier, former prime minister
The former prime minister threw his support behind Sharon, abandoning his decades-long association with the Labor Party after his heartbreaking loss to Peretz and Labor's subsequent withdrawal from the coalition government. Still, the same poll that gave Olmert enough seats to maintain control of the top spot gave a Kadima slate led by Peres even more. But the 82-year-old might have trouble gaining a foothold in the crowded Kadima field, and if he did return to Labor, he'd be out of the running this time around.