Tzipi Livni overthrown as leader of Kadima (TELEGRAPH UK) By Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem 03/29/12)
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Tzipi Livni has lost her position as leader of Israel´s opposition
party Kadima, depriving the political scene of its last major figure
with pro-peace credentials.
The former foreign minister, a respected figure in the West, was
easily defeated in her bid to retain the chairmanship of the Kadima
party by Shaul Mofaz, her hawkish deputy.
Mr Mofaz secured 62 per cent of the vote, against 38 per cent for Mrs
Livni, a victory far more comprehensive than most had expected.
Mrs Livni´s dismal showing raised fears that Israel had again
embarked on a sharp tilt to the right. Her defeat leaves the
country´s political field virtually bereft of senior figures with an
unquestioned commitment to a viable peace deal with the Palestinians.
Her replacement at the helm of Israel´s opposition party has often
courted controversy in the past for his uncompromising approach to
A former general, born in Iran, Mr Mofaz commanded Israeli forces in
the West Bank in the early years of the Second Intifada, the
Palestinian uprising that erupted in 2000.
Two respected Israeli journalists reported on a briefing he gave
officers in May 2001 during which he allegedly ordered a
daily "quota" of Palestinian deaths.
He was also accused of urging Ariel Sharon, under whose premiership
he served as defence minister between 2003 and 2006, to assassinate
Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader. Mr Mofaz is regarded as
the architect of Israel´s controversial policy of "targeted
assassinations", which has resulted in the deaths of several senior
Since joining Kadima shortly after it was founded in 2005, Mr Mofaz
has attempted to repackage himself as a more moderate figure. Most
notably, he has put forward his own peace plan, which calls for the
creation of a provisional Palestinian state in Gaza and 60 per cent
of the West Bank, leading to a more comprehensive peace deal at a
But the proposal has been dismissed by the Palestinian Authority,
which fears that provisional borders would become permanent ones,
leaving 500,000 Jewish settlers on land Israel occupied during the
Six Day War of 1967.
Mr Mofaz is considered much closer to the Likud party of Benjamin
Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, than his predecessor. Both men
are thought to favour military action against Iran, with Mr Mofaz
describing his one-time countrymen as "the root of all evil".
Mrs Livni has warned that the new leader would turn Kadima into
a "Likud B" and some commentators have suggested that Mr Mofaz could
even seek a merger with the prime minister´s party.
Mrs Livni was once seen as a prime minister-in-waiting, and under her
leadership Kadima won the largest number of seats in Israel´s last
parliamentary election in 2009 -- only to see herself outflanked by
Likud, which succeeded in forming a ruling coalition with right wing
She was seen in the West as serious in her commitment to a peaceful
revolution to the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians,
although many Israelis viewed her as an inept leader of the
Kadima´s popularity has suffered significantly as a result, and
opinion polls suggest it could fall to fourth place in the next
election, beaten by the resurgent Labour Party, Avigdor Lieberman´s
ultra-right Yisrael Beitenu and Likud, which remains the front-runner.
With Mrs Livni´s departure, all of the main party leaders are
considered either hardline on Palestinian issues, or indifferent to
In a sign of how peripheral the peace process has become in the eyes
of the Israeli public, Mr Mofaz barely made mention of the issue in
his acceptance speech, instead presenting himself as a champion of
Israeli social rights by speaking of housing, education and the right
to a "dignified old age".
Some analysts had predicted that Mrs Livni could lead loyalists into
a new party, although such is the scale of her defeat many now
believe she will simply retire from politics -- despite a plea from
her victorious rival to remain in the party.
"Tzipi, your place is with us," Mr Mofaz said. "As of tonight, there
is one Kadima, unified for its vision for the country, its values and
the righteousness of its path." (© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group
Limited 2012. 03/29/12)
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