Tzipi (Tzipora) Livni was born in Tel Aviv to parents who were former members of the Irgun, a pre-state, right-wing paramilitary organization. She served as a lieutenant in the IDF and later worked for the Mossad.
A graduate of Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law, Livni practiced public and commercial law for 10 years before entering politics in 1996 as a member of the Likud Party.
In 1999 she became a Knesset member for the first time on the Likud Party ticket. When Ariel Sharon became prime minister in July 2001, Livni was named Minister of Regional Cooperation. She went on to hold various Cabinet posts, including Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Minister of Immigrant Absorption; and Minister of Housing and Construction. In 2005, she was given the Justice Ministry portfolio.
In late 2005, Livni joined Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert in their move from Likud to the newly formed centrist Kadima Party, which she helped create. In May 2006, Livni was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, serving in that capacity until March 2009. She was only the second woman in Israeli history (along with Golda Meir) to have held the foreign ministry portfolio. She took over as head of Kadima in 2008, after a leadership race triggered by Olmert's resignation over corruption charges.
Despite Kadima narrowly winning the most Knesset seats in the 2009 general elections, Livni was unable to form a coalition government, paving the way for the establishment of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led government. Livni assumed the role as head of the opposition, and earned both praise and criticism for refusing to join the Netanyahu government.
Throughout her tenure as opposition leader, Livni has been outspoken in her criticisms of the Netanyahu government’s policies regarding final status talks with the Palestinians. Initially opposed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians early in her political career, Livni is now a champion of that policy. However, she has voiced her support over the government’s handling of the Iranian nuclear weapon issue.
In the 2012 Kadima primaries, Livni was defeated by close to 25 percent of the votes, and retired from the Knesset.
On November 27, 2012, Livni established Hatnua Party and won six seats in that year's election. She currently serves as Justice Minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's government.