Tzipi Livni Resigns from Knesset

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Tzipi Livni, former chairwoman of the Kadima Party who served as foreign minister in Ehud Olmert's government, resigned from the Knesset Tuesday, the first day of the summer session.

Livni recently lost the Kadima primaries to Shaul Mofaz, who garnered 62 percent of the vote to become the party's new chief. Mofaz made a public appeal, saying "Tzipi, your place is with us." He asked her to help him "return Israel to the right path," saying he would become the next prime minister.  But Livni refused.  "I respect Kadima's voters' choice to vote for Shaul Mofaz over me," she told reporters. "He now has the right to lead the party as he sees fit."

The Kadima party was birthed in the aftermath of Israel's unilateral pullout from all communities in the Gaza Strip and four in Samaria -- the northern West Bank -- in the summer of 2005.  Headed by then prime minister Ariel Sharon, Kadima drew centrist members primarily from his own right-wing Likud party, including Livni, as well as others.

Less than two months later, Sharon had a massive cerebral hemorrhage, which has left him comatose since then. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took the reins of the party but was eventually forced to resign facing corruption charges.

Livni was elected to replace Olmert as party leader in 2008. In the 2009 general elections, Kadima beat Likud by one seat, but Livni failed to cobble together a coalition so Netanyahu was tasked with forming a government, while Livni was relegated to the opposition.

As the new leader of Kadima, Mofaz responded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's suggestions that he may call early elections by admonishing the public not to "get too excited by polls. We are the only alternative to the Netanyahu government," Mofaz said.

The latest Dahaf poll shows Netanyahu's Likud Party winning 30 seats if elections were held today and Kadima falling from its current 28 to 11 seats under Mofaz.

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