Who is Tzipi Livni?

Israel on the Verge of Second Female Prime Minister

Last night Israel’s Kadima party gave Tzipi Livni the opportunity to become Israel’s second female prime minister. She narrowly defeated the former general and defense minister, Shaul Mofaz. In contrast to exit polls that showed a strong 10-point victory for Livni, the actual result was a narrow 540 votes, or 1.1%! Despite this, and other irregularities (such as the polling stations staying open 30 extra minutes, exit polls that proved to be grossly inaccurate, and that those exit poll results were released while polls were still open), Mofaz, to his credit, quickly conceded defeat.

Livni, a lawyer and former Mossad agent, replaced embattled Ehud Olmert, the political feline, whose nine lives appears to have finally run out. She now has the enormous task of forming a coalition among other parties so that a new government can be formed. If she succeeds, she will become the 13th prime minister of Israel, and second female to hold the Jewish state’s highest office.

Livni, whose ultranationalist parents fought for Israel’s independence in Menachem Begin’s Irgun, served as a lieutenant in the army before a stint with Israel’s famed Mossad Agency. In 1999 she was first elected to the Knesset as a member of the Likud party and her influence grew each year. When Tommy Lapid’s Shunui (Change) party left Sharon’s coalition she was promoted to replace him as justice minister. In addition, Livni fully backed Sharon’s effort for Israel to disengage from Gaza. She was credited with making a way for Netanyahu to vote for disengagement without losing face (known as the Livni Compromise). She followed Sharon and Olmert to form a new party, Kadima, in 2005. Kadima was birthed because of the split within the Likud party of over the Gaza Disengagement.

The Problem

Some have complained that it is not right that just under 40,000 people (registered Kadima members that voted) have the ability to choose the next prime minister in a state of 7,282,000. This is because the prime minister is stepping down in the middle of his term. In Israel, the leader of the party with the most seats in the Knesset is given the task of forming a ruling majority coalition of 61 Knesset members. With Olmert stepping aside, the party’s number two is given the opportunity to build a coalition. (In this case, she is already the party head because Olmert did not participate in the election.)

So…a women whose named was not known to most Israelis just a few years ago will possibly become the next prime minister with a vote of confidence from about 20,000 (the number of Kadima voters who voted for her) Israelis.

The Problem #2

Forming a coalition could prove difficult as many of Israel’s political parties are calling for new elections. It is almost certain, barring any bizarre scandals, that f