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Can Livni clean up Israeli politics?

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won the Kadima Party primary to replace Ehud Olmert who has been beset by corruption charges.

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In many corners of the Middle East, Livni has a reputation as a moderate, levelheaded foreign minister. In contrast, Mr. Mofaz is deeply disliked by many Palestinians due to the fact that he served as army chief-of-staff during the Al Aqsa Intifada and he is seen as a leader of the camp in Israel that backs a military strike on Iran's developing nuclear program.

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Not since the election of Golda Meir in 1969 has Israel put a woman in its top office. But like Meir, who was loved abroad but had many foes at home, Livni may face a shaky start due to the slenderness of her win over Mofaz, a much more hawkish candidate who presents the archetypal picture of the kind of person Israelis usually choose when they are worried about the prospect of another war. Israeli voters have shown a strong tendency toward electing former military brass of many stripes.

Livni, however, earned an image as someone who understands Israel's complex security challenges in the region because she was an officer for the Mossad, Israel's spy agency.

"The national mission … is to create stability quickly," Livni told reporters outside her Tel Aviv home at dawn. "On the level of government in Israel, we have to deal with difficult threats."

Livni's first order of business is forming a coalition government, always a complicated puzzle in Israel. Once Mr. Olmert officially resigns, the coalition's government dissolves. But Olmert is expected to remain as a caretaker leader until a new coalition is approved. Livni will have 42 days to assemble a new one, and if she does she will likely be the next prime minister. If she can't, new elections will be held early next year.

Challenges are already confronting her. Shas, one of the coalition partners in the government for many years, says it won't join a government that will agree to divide Jerusalem. The disputed city is governed by Israel but claimed by Palestinians as their capital as well; Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967.

"The situation is very complex right now," says Tel Aviv University professor Reuven Pedhatzur. "Every party will come along with their demands: Shas on Jerusalem and demanding more funds for their children. Labor will want something, maybe Likud will want something else."

Livni is less known for wheeling and dealing and more for integrity, and that may make it hard for her to survive. "I'm not sure that she's willing to make these kinds of promises to Shas, or to any party," says Mr. Pedhatzur. "For this, and for many reasons, I cannot see any real progress until the next elections, and there will be elections next year."

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