09-17-2008, 11:13 AM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
Mother from Mossad on course to be Israel's PM
Quote:Rivals for the leadership of Israel's ruling party go head to head today in a race which will put one of them a step closer to leadership of the country.
The front-runner, foreign minister Tzipi Livni, a former Mossad secret agent, is on course to become Israel's first female prime minister since Golda Meir 30 years ago.
Polls indicate that the 50-year-old should scrape past the 40 per cent threshold of voters in the internal election of the Kadima party, allowing her to avoid a run-off.
Her chief rival in the race to replace prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is being forced from office by a corruption scandal, is Shaul Mofaz, a former military chief and defence minister.
Opinion polls put the pair far ahead of the other two candidates, veteran cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter, a former director of Israel's Shin Bet security service. The ballot will be the first time the centre-Right party, formed three years ago by Ariel Sharon, has held a leadership contest.
It will be a tense day for the leading candidates. Mother-of-two Ms Livni's bid to follow Golda Meir's career path into the PM's office is under threat after her once-comfortable lead against the hawkish Mr Mofaz was eaten away.
A confident Ms Livni told Israeli Army Radio today: "Today we can start to make the change that Israel needs in order to once again be what it should be, what it can be. I know what this country needs - to continue the process that will allow us to determine the borders of the state of Israel with security."
The softly-spoken diplomat plays a central role in peace talks with the Palestinians and has a reputation for preferring negotiation to confrontation. She is regarded as less experienced than her rival but willing to take risks.
Mr Mofaz is demanding that the Palestinians fulfil a series of conditions before a final deal can be hammered out.
He is more willing to order military action in times of crisis - as Mr Sharon's chief of staff during the intifada he oversaw Israel's invasion of the West Bank in 2002.
He told Army Radio: "The state of Israel stands before major challenges in the coming years and needs a strong leader who has the courage to decide and the ability to act."
About 74,000 paid-up party members are eligible to vote in the contest. Results are expected after midnight.
Under party rules a candidate must receive at least 40 per cent of the votes to win outright. Otherwise, a run-off will be held between the top two.
Mr Olmert, who is facing a series of corruption investigations, has said he will resign as soon as Kadima has a new leader. But whoever wins the primary does not automatically become prime minister.
Kadima is the largest party in a four-member governing coalition, and the new leader will have just over a month to put together a new coalition. If that fails, the country will be forced to hold elections early next year, a year and a half early.
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