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    » 09/18/2008, 00.00

    ISRAEL

    Tzipi Livni’s victory and the Middle East’s shaky hopes for peace

    Joshua Lapide

    Livni wins by a slim margin. Now she must build a coalition to form a new government taking into account her party’s internal divisions and those in the Palestinian camp.
    Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won her bid to head Kadima by a narrow margin, just 1 per cent more than her closest rival, Shaul Mofaz. About 50 per cent of the party’s members cast their vote.

    Livni, 50, a lawyer and a former Mossad agent, was justice minister under Ariel Sharon. She is among Kadima founders and is slated to become Israel’s second female prime minister after Golda Meir held the post from 1969 to 1974.

    In her victory speech Livni early this morning she thanked her supporters, saying that she will approach her new responsibilities with 'great reverence'.

    She also called on her party to work together to build a coalition that can govern the country.

    Although last night’s victory puts Livni at the helm of the party, Olmert remains prime minister. He will resign which the Knesset will accept when Kadima’s new leader has formed a new cobbled together a working coalition. 

    Starting tomorrow and for the next 42 days she will meet with the leaders of other parties to hammer out a new alliance and choose a new cabinet.

    Her task appears an uphill job, especially since her own party seems quite weak. Founded in 2005 by politicians who left Labour and Likud, Kadima has been weakened by a succession of scandals that ultimately forced Olmert to quit.

    The party is also split. Mofaz supporters fought hard believing that he, as the more experienced leader, was better placed to build a strong coalition government. However, a series of polls showing Livni beating Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu tipped the balanced in her favour.

    Indeed some potential coalition partners are laying down their conditions. Shas has already laid down its economic and political terms for joining the coalition, the hardest being “no concession” to the Palestinians over Jerusalem. This runs against one of the factors that played in Livni’s favour in the primaries, namely her image as someone open to dialogue with the Palestinian Authority. Since the launch of the Annapolis peace process in November last year, Livni has in fact been Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians.

    Palestinians are also split over her rise. Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said he hoped the result would lead to a return to stability. By contrast, a sceptical Hamas chief Ismail Haniye said that all “Israeli leaders unite in their hostile positions against our people and in denying their rights.”

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    See also

    31/07/2008 ISRAEL
    Some hope for peace with the Palestinians as Olmert gets ready to bow out
    Syria, the Palestinian National Authority and the United States hope the peace process will continue. Within Israel the race for Olmert’s succession is expected to be tough going.

    17/09/2008 ISRAEL
    Kadima to pick Olmert’s successor
    Polling stations will be open till this evening. The fight for the top job in the centrist party is largely limited to two candidates, Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz. The former however is ahead in the polls but will need at least 40 per cent to avoid a runoff.

    30/05/2008 ISRAEL
    Israel getting ready for early elections
    Olmert is expected to quit. Surveys favour Likud and Netanyahu, who might bring talks with Syria to a dead halt because he is against giving back the Golan Heights.

    12/02/2009 ISRAEL
    Israel must now choose between democracy and extremism, Palestinians say
    For Bernard Sabella, Christian lawmaker for Fatah, Israel faces a crucial choice: work for a two-state solution or for the ascendancy of only one. Disillusionment in the future of the peace process comes after years of little progress. For Hamas election results represent the victory of “a culture of terrorism.” Palestinian National Authority will have the same “expectations of the international community.”

    21/09/2009 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – US
    Few expect much from meeting between Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas
    The White House cautions against expecting too much, speaks of an opportunity to bring the three leaders together. For Israelis, it is a “photo opportunity”; for the Palestinians it is a way to show the Americans who is blocking the peace process.



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