MK Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, will be the fourth head of the Kadima party, having won 61.7 percent of the vote and besting incumbent Tzipi Livni in the final count after Tuesday's primary.
Speaking at Kadima Headquarters in Petah Tikva after his victory, Mofaz called for party unity and invited Livni to work with him to unseat Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
I want to tell all the reporters
We want to tell Tzipi Livni
We want don't want you to quit the party
Don't make mistakes, join us
We will welcome you with open arms
"From tonight, the path to unseating Netanyahu has begun. From tonight, there is one Kadima," Mofaz said.
"A united and strong Kadima will return Israel to the right path," he continued.
Mofaz promised to work for new socioeconomic agenda, and to get all Israelis to serve in the army. The latter comment caused several haredim (ultra-Orthodox) in the crowd to leave the room.
Livni called primary Mofaz to congratulate him on his victory earlier in the night.
"I called Shaul Mofaz, I wished him good luck," Livni said. "These are the results."
After thanking campaign volunteers, Livni declined to answer a question over whether she would remain in the party.
"These were two long months and a long day," Livni said, "and I'm going to sleep."
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon split the Likud and established Kadima in November 2005. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert replaced Sharon following his strokes and Livni took over after Olmert was forced to quit the post due to allegations of corruption.
Sources close to Mofaz said they spoke to all 12 MKs who supported Livni in the race in recent days and they all said they would remain in the party under Mofaz’s leadership.
Livni might have hinted about her future when she told reporters at her campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning that she “doesn’t believe in opposition inside parties” and that she formed Kadima and believes in its future.
When she was asked by Army Radio whether she would stay in the party if she lost, she said, “I am sick of that question. I don’t think the public cares what happens to me personally if I don’t win. It’s a subject that only the press cares about.”
The election was marred by a low turnout. Only a little more than 40 percent of the party’s 95,000 members came out to vote on the rainy day. By contrast, in the first round of voting in September’s Labor leadership race, the turnout was 67%.
Former prime minister and Kadima leader Ehud Olmert said at the J Street Conference in Washington that he believes the winner of this contest could be the next prime minister.