Livni wins Israel leadership race, Palestinians pleased

Thursday, September 18, 2008 |  Israel Today Staff

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday won her Kadima Party's early primary election by the narrowest of margins over Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.

The margin of Livni's victory was a mere one percent - 43% to Mofaz's 42% - prompting speculation that Mofaz would contest the outcome of the vote. But on Thursday morning Mofaz conceded defeat and called Livni to congratulate her.

Livni will now have six weeks to put together a new majority coalition to govern the country. In the meantime, former Kadima Party Chairman Ehud Olmert will remain prime minister of a transition government.

If Livni fails to form a new majority coalition, and analysts say she has a very hard uphill battle in front of her, then Olmert will remain prime minister until new national elections can be held sometime next year.

If Livni succeeds, she will become Israel's second female prime minister, following in the footsteps of the legendary Golda Meir.

But Livni is seen as far more of a "dove" - someone who is prepared to compromise the nation's strategic assets and historical rights - than Meir was, a fact that left Palestinian leaders breathing a sigh of relief after the news confirmed her slim victory over Mofaz.

Livni has indicated that she will continue down Olmert's path to peace, which sees Israel surrendering nearly all of Judea and Samaria for a Palestinian Arab state in order to fend off a perceived demographic threat.

Like Olmert, Livni has also come out in favor of the re-division of Jerusalem.

Mofaz made it clear during his campaign that he opposed any concessions in Jerusalem, and would not give the Palestinians nearly as much of Judea and Samaria as Olmert and Livni. Mofaz also insisted that any compromise would have to be based on the Palestinians first demonstrating their willingness and ability to finally meet their peace obligations.

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