Profile: Tzipi Livni
Tzipi Livni, who currently serves as foreign minister and vice prime minster, has long been Ehud Olmert’s principal rival inside the Kadima party. The 50-year old politician has few ideological differences with her party boss, but the two clashed sharply over Mr Olmert’s refusal to resign in the wake of Israel’s botched war in Lebanon in 2006. Ms Livni, a former operative for the Mossad, Israel’s secret service, publicly called on the prime minister to step down last year, but the two ended up patching up their differences and she remained in office. In November last year, Mr Olmert appointed her to lead the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority – a task that has given Ms Livni a high profile internationally but that has yielded few results so far. She hails from an ultra-nationalist family, but is now seen as one of the chief proponents of a peace deal with the Palestinians in order to safeguard the Jewish state. Like Mr Olmert, she lacks military experience, but is widely seen by the Israeli public as a untainted by corruption allegations. In the current political environment, that is a crucial asset.
Profile: Shaul Mofaz
Like so many of Israel’s senior politicians, Shaul Mofaz entered government straight from a top post in the country’s revered armed forces. The current transport minister was born in Iran in 1948, and came to Israel with his family in 1957. Mr Mofaz held a string of commands with Israel’s combat troops before being appointed the country’s 16th chief of staff in 1998, a post he held for four years. He was appointed defence minister in 2004 and joined the Israeli parliament as a member for Kadima party two years later. Over the past weeks, Mr Mofaz has increasingly been playing up his military experience – widely seen as an attempt to draw a favourable contrast with Ms Livni. In June, he also raised eyebrows, and drew a rebuke from Ehud Olmert, when he said an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was becoming “unavoidable”. He warned that “if Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it”. Should he succeed Mr Olmert at the helm of the government, Mr Mofaz would be the first Israeli prime minister of Middle Eastern Jewish descent.
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