Israel's Kadima party elects Shaul Mofaz as leader
Former defence minister defeats Tzipi Livni and vows to oust Binyamin Netanyahu's government at next election
Israel's former defence and military chief Shaul Mofaz has won a resounding victory over Tzipi Livni to lead the Kadima party.
Final results in the Kadima leadership contest showed Mofaz captured 62% of the votes and Livni 37%. Afterwards, Mofaz spoke confidently of ousting Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister in the next national elections, scheduled for October 2013.
"We will win the political and national battles we face," he told a cheering crowd. "In the general elections we will replace Netanyahu's government."
Polls show that toppling Netanyahu would be an uphill battle: Kadima, currently the largest faction in parliament, is losing support to the centrist Labour party and the dovish Meretz. Kadima would also be expected to lose seats to the television personality Yair Lapid, who has not yet formed a political party.
Mofaz is best known for the tough tactics he adopted as military chief and defence minister during the four-year Palestinian uprising that ended in 2004. In 2008, he briefly rattled global oil markets by saying Israel would attack Iran as a last resort if Tehran did not abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programme.
In recent years he has adopted a more statesmanlike approach, proposing the immediate establishment of a provisional Palestinian state and addressing socio-economic issues and women's rights.
Livni, who a few years ago was among Israel's most popular politicians, has faced heavy criticism for what is widely seen as an ineffective term as opposition leader.
Kadima was founded in November 2005 by the then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who defected from the Likud party with many of its top officials, including Livni and Mofaz, in an effort to move forward more boldly on peacemaking than some Likud members wanted.
Sharon suffered an incapacitating stroke shortly after that, and although peacemaking resumed under his successor, Ehud Olmert, it stalled at the end of Olmert's term.