Sep 19, 2008

World - Israel;Livini poised to be Premier

Wins the leadership vote for the ruling Kadima Party

DUBAI: Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is on track to become the next Prime Minister after she won the leadership vote for the ruling Kadima Party.

Ms. Livni, lawyer and a former Mossad agent, got 431 more votes than her closest rival, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz. She won the election with a wafer-thin margin, securing 43.1 per cent of the votes, or 16,936. Mr. Mofaz, former Defence Minister and chief of staff of the military, got 42 per cent, or 16,505 votes.

The election became necessary because Kadima leader and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing multiple corruption allegations.

Ms. Livni now has 42 days to cobble together a new coalition government.

Analysts say the task would not be easy as some of her potential partners have already made hard-to-accept political demands. Leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas Party, Eli Yishai has conditioned his party’s participation in the new government to a commitment by Kadima against negotiating the status of Jerusalem in future talks with Palestinians.

“If Livni wants a government, she needs to comply with our demands,” said Mr. Yishai. The Palestinians visualise East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war, as their future capital.

In case Ms. Livni is unable to form government within six weeks, Israel would go to the polls in early 2009, one and a half years ahead of schedule.

Hamas expressed indifference to the vote result. Its leader Ismail Haniyeh said both Ms. Livni and her rivals deny “legitimate Palestinian rights.”

“All Israeli leaders unite in their hostile positions against our people and in denying their rights, notably Jerusalem and the refugees,” said Mr. Haniyeh.

Senior Palestinian Authority representative, Saeb Erekat, hoped the vote would return stability to Israel.

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