Shaul Mofaz in Kfar Saba ahead of the Kadima primaries vote, with his wife Orit, March 27, 2012
Shaul Mofaz in Kfar Sava ahead of the Kadima primaries vote, with his wife Orit, March 27, 2012 Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Shaul Mofaz won the Kadima party leadership primaries on Tuesday, after a tight race against former party chairwoman Tzipi Lvini.

With 100% of the votes counted, Mofaz won 61.7 percent of the vote - a total of 23,987 votes - and Livni took 37.23 percent - a total of 14,516 votes.

In a speech in response, Mofaz told those gathered at the Kadima party headquarters, "This evening, Kadima has been chosen," adding "Kadima has won."

Mofaz emphasized the need for a strong and united party following the primaries, calling on Livni to join him in the effort to "return Israel to the right path."

"Tzipi, you place is with us," he said.

In his speech, Mofaz appealed to Israelis to have faith in Kadima's new journey "to the Israel we lost, that we dreamt about, that can be different," and expressed his conviction that Kadima would pose a significant challenge to Prime Minister Netanyahu's administration in Israel's general elections.

Earlier on Tuesday night, Livni said in response to Mofaz's victory, “You are the beautiful face of the state and I got here for you. I am grateful to each and every one of you for the embrace of faith, preparation and friendship. I believe that the state deserves the leadership you are worthy of. These are elections, and these are the results.”

In another speech later on Tuesday night, Livni thanked party members and citizens for their support, and said that she telephoned Mofaz to congratulate him on the victory. "These are the results," she said, adding that she would not be answering any questions, as it had been a long night.

Ehud Olmert, who is on a visit to the U.S., phoned to congratulate Mofaz on his victory. The two discussed that maintaining unity in Kadima is important, even after the primaries. The former prime minister promised to make every effort to help Mofaz to keep the party united.

Avi Dichter, who dropped out of the Kadima leadership context last week, said of Mofaz's victory: “Today there is one winner, the Kadima party. There is no doubt that the decision to join forces for the future of Kadima was the right one. “

A relatively small number of Kadima members, much lower than in the previous leadership contest in 2008, voted in almost 200 ballot boxes located in over 104 municipalities during the vote on Tuesday. Both Livni, Kadima’s chairwoman who is seeking reelection, and her rival, MK Shaul Mofaz, encouraged party members to vote, hoping that higher participation would increase their chances of winning.

Mofaz voted on Tuesday morning, shortly after the polls opened. He arrived at the Kfar Sava ballot box, accompanied by his wife Orit, after visiting his parents’ graves. He was also surrounded by dozens of supporters who chanted slogans.

“I intend to win the general elections and bring ‏(Prime Minister Benjamin‏) Netanyahu down,” Mofaz said. “Our country deserves a new social agenda, a different government system, equality of civic duties, and more serious attempts to achieve peace in our region.”

Mofaz said that he intends to cooperate with Livni if he clinches the top job. “Cooperation is always feasible and desirable as long as it benefits the people of Israel,” he said.

Read this article in Hebrew