Not Run-of-the-mill Legislator for Long

Tzipi Livni did not spend much time as a run-of-the-mill Knesset member. She was first elected in May 1999, and less than two years later, was already a minister in Ariel Sharon's first government.

Yet even in her limited time as a legislator, she managed to make a significant impression on Amnon Rubinstein, then a Meretz MK and chairman of the Knesset Constitution Committee: He asked the prime minister to appoint her as justice minister.

However, Livni initially had to settle for the regional cooperation portfolio. She arrived at the Justice Ministry only at the end of 2004, after the Shinui Party's ministers resigned from the government.

"Livni didn't take much initiative as a Knesset member, but she was active and intelligent," Rubinstein said. "Her approach was pragmatic and rational, and not unduly influenced by partisan positions."

In recent years, Knesset members have seemed as quick to propose new bills as to shoot them down. Livni, however, authored only five bills of her own, and co-sponsored another 22 - including six that would have amended a Basic Law.

Of particular interest was her (unsuccessful) attempt to repeal the Law of Return's "grandchild clause," a 1970 amendment that allows immigrants with one Jewish grandparent to receive automatic Israeli citizenship. When Sharon appointed her immigrant absorption minister in 2003, he told her in no uncertain terms that changes to the Law of Return were not within her purview.

She would probably rather forget her support for another bill, which would have required a referendum on any agreement with the Palestinians. Had it passed, it would now be threatening to tie her own hands.