Tzipi Livni

Political Leader

Born: 8 July 1958
Birthplace: Tel Aviv, Israel
Best known as: The leader of Israel's Kadima party, 2008-present

Name at birth: Tzipora Malka Livni

Tzipi Livni was elected to be leader of Israel's centrist Kadima party in September of 2008, putting her in position to be the successor to Ehud Olmert as Israel's prime minister. Livni has deep roots in Israeli politics: as noted by The Guardian, "Her father, Eitan, was the chief of operations in Menachem Begin's anti-British Irgun underground movement and her mother, Sara, was an Irgun soldier." As a young woman she worked for the intelligence agency Mossad in Israel and Paris (1980-84), then returned to Israel and earned a law degree from Bar Ilan University. She was working as a corporate lawyer when she was elected to the Knesset in 1999 as a member of the conservative Likud party. Over the next decade she held posts including Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Minister of Justice as she rose rapidly through the party ranks. In November of 2005 she followed Ariel Sharon into the newly-formed Kadima party; early the next year she was named the party's foreign minister. When Ehud Olmert became prime minister in May of 2006, Livni became deputy prime minister as well as heading the justice and foreign ministries. She was elected to lead Kadmia in September of 2008, with the chance to form her own government as prime minister, after Olmert said he would step down in the face of his expected indictment on corruption charges. After failing to reach agreements to form a government, she called for elections in 2009. Her chief rival in the election was Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party. Elections held 9 February 2009 gave Livni's party the most seats in the Knesset, but Netanyahu's party had an edge in forming an oppositional bloc and Netanyahu was tapped to be the new prime minister.

Extra credit: Livni would have been the second female to be the country's prime minister; the first was Golda Meir, who served from 1969-74... Livni married Naftali Spitzer, an advertising executive, in 1984. They have two sons, Omri and Yuval... Livni would not be the first prime minister born after Israel's independence; former PM Benjamin Netanyahu was born in 1949, also in Tel Aviv.

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