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Home > News & Analysis > Analysis
Background on Kadima leadership elections
IMEU, Sep 12, 2008

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was recently elected leader of Kadima, poses with Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, after a meeting in Jerusalem. (Maan Images)
Israel's ruling Kadima party held leadership elections on September 17, 2008 to select a new party chairman, and elected Tzipi Livni to lead the party. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is currently involved in two separate corruption scandals, has formally submitted his resignation to President Shimon Peres, and Livni has now been tasked with forming a coalition government, and has 42 days in which to do so. If Livni is unable to form a government, general elections will be held in early 2009, 18 months ahead of schedule.

Livni beat out contender Shaul Mofaz by a narrow margin, garnering 43.1% to his 42%, making a runoff unnecessary. The two other candidates, Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter, received only 8.5% and 6.5% of the vote, respectively.


Now that Tzipi Livni has been elected as chairman of the Kadima party she has become the leader of what is currently the Israeli Knesset's largest political party, with 29 out of 120 seats. If able to form a coalition government in the allotted six weeks, she will become the next prime minister of Israel and will be responsible for overseeing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

If Kadima is not able to form a coalition government under Livni, it will face a competition with what recent polls suggest is an increasingly popular Likud, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu opposes the Annapolis peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state. In a speech before the Likud Central Committee, he said of a Palestinian state, "Not today, not tomorrow, not ever."


Kadima's platform indicates an acceptance of the Roadmap for Peace, the need for territorial compromise and a negotiated agreement to establish an independent Palestinian state. However, recent actions indicate an intention to unilaterally determine the framework of a final peace settlement along the lines proposed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This reduces peace negotiations to private discussions among Israelis. Palestinians would be excluded from determining their future.

Though Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abbas agreed in Annapolis last November to work toward a comprehensive peace agreement before President Bush leaves office, little progress has been made since. Palestinians point to continued Israeli settlement expansion and continued restrictions on Palestinian movement as major stumbling blocks. Indeed, according to Israel's Peace Now, Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian West Bank has nearly doubled in the past year in violation of commitments made under U.S.-sponsored peace plans to halt all settlement activity. After a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in which Rice complained that settlement expansion hinders the peace process, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the goal should be "not to let any kind of noises that relate to the situation on the ground these days enter the negotiation room."

Late last month, Prime Minister Olmert offered the Palestinians an interim peace agreement that would further defer resolution of final status issues. Palestinians are skeptical of partial arrangements. The lesson of the Oslo peace process - which led to a nearly 60 percent increase in the number of Israeli settlers living in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as crippling restrictions on Palestinian movement within and between the Palestinian territories - leads Palestinians to support negotiations aimed at concluding a comprehensive agreement with final arrangements on borders, refugees and the status of Jerusalem.


The political and military histories of Kadima's key candidates are cause for concern among Palestinians.

Tzipi Livni:

Tzipi Livni was elected chairman of the Kadima party on September 17, and now faces the task of forming a coalition government. Livni is one of Kadima's most prominent figures, and in her post as Foreign Minister has led the Israeli team negotiating a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians have expressed frustration with Livni's unwillingness to discuss certain key issues, such as the rights of Palestinian refugees. Read more.

Shaul Mofaz:

Following his defeat in the September 17 Kadima leadership election, Mofaz has declared his intention to take a break from politics. A prominent military figure until his 2005 entry into politics, Mofaz is best known for his role as chief of staff of the Israeli military during the first years of the second Palestinian intifada, when he oversaw the reoccupation of major West Bank cities and the near-total destruction of the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002. Read more.

Avi Dichter:

Born in 1952, Avi Dichter spent his career rising to the top of Israel's Shin Bet security service, before becoming its chief in 2000. Under Dichter's command, Israel escalated its policy of extra-judicial killings of Palestinian political and military leaders. Since September 2000, Israel assassinated more than 400 Palestinians; nearly half were innocent bystanders and more than 40 were children. Read more.

Meir Sheetrit:

Meir Sheetrit was born in Morocco in 1948 and immigrated to Israel in 1957. He began his political career as the mayor of the city of Yavne, and has spent over 40 years in politics. Sheetrit was formerly a member of Likud, and served as Minister of Justice under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In 2003, as Treasury Minister, he was one of the strongest supporters of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's highly unpopular privatization reform program.
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