ANALYSIS / Monumental Tasks Await Israel's Newest Political Star, Tzipi Livni

New Kadima chairwoman will need to focus on uniting fractured party, starting coalition talks.

All the tests that Tzipi Livni has had in her nine years in politics are dwarfed by what she will be experiencing starting on Thursday, even before the most dramatic test of them all: the premiership. She will have to unite a fractured party, bring closer a political rival who garnered close to 40 percent of the vote (according to the surveys) and begin coalition talks.

She will be entering an exhausting power struggle against her predecessor, who due to the wonders of Israeli politics will stay even after he goes. The expectations are high, although we do not really know Livni and can only wait and see.

She began nine years ago as head of the Government Corporations Authority, and now she is a step away from being head of the government. All her previous posts came to her because of a rare combination of circumstances. A junior minister under Sharon, she was promoted to justice minister after Shinui left the cabinet, and, eventually, foreign minister after Ariel Sharon fell ill. On Wednesday, she was elected Kadima chairman by some 20,000 voters. Ninet Tayeb needed ten times that to win the "A Star is Born" television talent show.

Two main factors made Livni's election possible: the polls showing she would bring more Knesset seats to Kadima than any other candidate and might even win the general election; and her clean image, which enthralled many in the age of Ehud Olmert.

Coalition talks will begin, if unofficially, today. Livni knows how much mileage she must cover as prime minister to successfully run against two ex-premiers, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahau. That is her trap. Will "clean politics" and the "difference" she is so proud of lead her to be uncompromising in coalition talks, or will the prime minister's chair exert its inexorable pull on her, causing her to walk the paths of some of her predecessors?