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Mofaz beats Livni for Kadima leadership

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Shaul Mofaz decisively defeated Tzipi Livni to become the new leader of Israel’s Kadima Party.

Mofaz received 62 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s Kadima primary to unseat Livni as the leader of Israel’s main opposition party. Forty-five percent of the party’s 95,000 registered members voted in the primary.

The Iranian-born Mofaz is a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. Mofaz and Livni, who both were members of the right-wing Likud Party before joining Kadima, have been fierce rivals for the past several years. In 2008 Livni narrowly beat Mofaz to become Kadima’s leader. Previous party heads were founder Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

In a late-night victory speech, Mofaz called on Livni to remain in the party, saying "Tzipi, your place is with us."

Recent polls suggested that Kadima, which has 28 seats in the current Knesset, likely will see its support plunge dramatically in the next elections. That would be the case, the polls noted, regardless of whether Mofaz or Livni was the party’s leader.

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