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Tzipi Livni, Kadima

Tzipi Livni was born in Israel in 1958. An attorney by profession, she holds an L.L.B. degree from Bar Ilan University.

She is the current Minister of Justice. Livni was an employee of the Mossad (1980-1984) and Director of the Registrar of Government Corporations. Elected to the Knesset in 1999, she was a member of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women.

In March 2001, Tzipi Livni was appointed Minister for Regional Cooperation and has also served as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Immigrant Absorption; and Housing and Constrution. She was appointed Minister of Justice in 2004.

She is married, with two children.

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Ehud Olmert, Kadima

Ehud Olmert was born in Binyamina in 1945.

He holds B.A. and LL.B. degrees in Psychology, Philosophy and Law from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Ehud Olmert was a Knesset Member from 1973, serving on the House, Constitution, Law & Justice Committee, State Control, Foreign Affairs & Defense, Finance, Education & Culture, and Internal Affairs & Environment Committees.

In November 1993, Olmert was elected Mayor of Jerusalem, and was forced to resign from the Knesset in 1998 after a change in law prevented holding two elected offices simultaneously. After his re-election to the Knesset in 2003, he resigned his position in as mayor.

In February 2003, Ehud Olmert was appointed Minister of Industry and Trade, and Deputy Prime Minister. Olmert became an influential member of the Cabinet and was one of the first to advocate a withdrawal from Gaza, an idea that was ultimately was endorsed by Prime Minister Sharon and became the disengagement plan. When Binyamin Netanyahu resigned from the Cabinet, Olmert assumed the role of Finance Minister.

Following Ariel Sharon's decision to leave the Likud Party in November 2005, Olmert joined with Sharon and several other former Likud ministers to form the new centrist party, Kadima.

On January 4, 2006, Sharon suffered a massive stroke that left him unable to perform his duties as Prime Minister. On January 5, Olmert became Acting Prime Ministerial and assumed the powers of Prime Minister in Sharon's absence (he has also assumed the top position on the Kadima list for Knesset). He will remain Acting Prime Minister until the Israeli elections, which are scheduled to take place on March 28, 2006.

Olmert is married with four children and lives in Jerusalem.

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Shimon Peres, Kadima

Shimon Peres was born in 1923 in Belorussia and immigrated with his family in 1934. Peres is a former Vice-President of the Socialist International; former chairman of the Labor Party and an architect of the 1994 Oslo Accords, for which he was awarded (with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat) the Nobel Peace Prize.

He studied at the Ben Shemen Agricultural School, and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot in the Jordan Valley. He was politically active from the age of 16 and was elected Secretary of the Labor Youth Movement in 1943.

In Israel's War of Independence (1947-48), Peres was responsible for arms purchases and recruitment, and in 1948 was appointed head of the naval services. In 1949, he headed the Defense Ministry's procurement delegation to the United States and while there studied at the New York School for Social Research and Harvard University.

Peres was appointed Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Defense (1952-53), and later Director-General (1953-59). He reorganized the Defense Ministry, initiated the establishment of the Israeli Aircraft Industries and Israel's nuclear project, and fostered the special relations with France. He was instrumental in planning the 1956 Sinai Campaign.

Peres has been a Member of Knesset since 1959, and served as Deputy Minister of Defense (1959-65). In 1965 he left the Mapai Labor Party and was elected Secretary General of Rafi (the Israel Workers' List), which later merged with Mapai to form the Israel Labor Party. Peres became Minister of Immigrant Absorption (1969), and later served as Minister of Transport and Communications (1970-74). In 1974 he was appointed Minister of Information and later Minister of Defense (1974-77). Highlights of his tenure as Defense Minister were the signing of the Interim Agreement with Egypt (1975), the Entebbe rescue operation (1976), and the opening of the Good Fence on Israel's border with Lebanon.

In 1977, Peres was elected chairman of the Labor Alignment. In 1984, a National Unity Government was formed, and Peres served first as Prime Minister (1984-86), and then as Vice Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1986-88). During his term as Prime Minister, Israel withdrew from Lebanon (1985) and an economic stabilization plan was implemented. In the following National Unity Government (1988-90), Peres was Vice Premier and Minister of Finance. In 1990-92, he was leader of the opposition in the Knesset.

In July 1992, Peres was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.

On November 5, 1995, following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, he assumed the positions of Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, until the general elections held in May 1996.

From 1996-1999 he served as a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Shimon Peres served as Minister of Regional Cooperation from July 1999 until March 2001. In March 2001, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister. In January 2005, Shimon Peres was appointed Vice Premier.

In November 2005, Peres was defeated by Amir Peretz in an election for the leadership of the Labor Party. Peres subsequently announced he was quitting the party after more than 60 years to help Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pursue peace with the Palestinians. Peres reportedly will not join Sharon's new Kadima Party, but will receive a senior post in the government if Sharon wins reelection and will be responsible for negotiations with the Palestinians.

Peres has published books in Hebrew, French and English on many subjects. In October 1997 he created the Peres Center for Peace with the aim of advancing Arab-Israeli joint ventures. He is married, and has three children and six grandchildren.

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Ehud Barak, Labor

Born at Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon, Ehud Barak enlisted in the Israeli Army at age 17, and saw significant action leading a commando unit in the 1967 Six-Day War. His superiors noted his exceptional bravery and coolness under fire. When hostilities erupted again in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Barak commanded a tank battalion on the Sinai front.

Although his academic education was repeatedly interrupted by calls to active duty, Barak found time to earn an undergraduate degree in Physics and Mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a Masters in Economic Engineering Systems from Stanford University. In addition to his scientific and military interests, he is a talented pianist and linguist.

For many years, he led Israel's elite anti-terrorist unit, on one occasion successfully storming a hijacked airliner in Tel Aviv, and on another -- disguised as a woman -- leading a raid against the organization that murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He also played a pivotal role in planning what has been described as the most audacious and perfectly executed special forces operation in history, the Entebbe raid and hostage rescue mission. After serving as head of Israeli Intelligence and Central Command during the 1980s, Barak was appointed army Chief of Staff, his country's top military leader, in 1991.

After five distinguished years as Chief of Staff, Barak stepped down to become Interior Minister in the government headed by his mentor, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The former warrior who fearlessly faced death on the battlefield brought a different kind of courage to his new job, striving to engage the Palestinian leadership in a productive dialogue. In 1995, when Rabin was assassinated by a domestic extremist, Shimon Peres became Prime Minister, and Barak replaced Peres as Foreign Minister. Barak was propelled to leadership of the Labor Party following Peres's narrow electoral loss to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Barak became Prime Minister in his own right when he led the Labor Party to a landslide victory in 1999. As Prime Minister he ended Israel's 17-year occupation of southern Lebanon and offered unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians. Barak's peace offer was rejected, the Palestinians broke off negotiations, and the subsequent outbreak of violence led to Barak's defeat in the next election.

Barak declined an offer to serve as Minister of Defense in the subsequent government headed by Likud leader Ariel Sharon. For the next few years Barak pursued a business career in Israel and the United States, joining private equity firms with interests in security-related industries. In June 2007, Barak was once again elected to lead the Labor Party and was immediately appointed to serve as Minister of Defense in the reorganized coalition government. As the nominee of Labor, it is expected that Ehud Barak will be a leading candidate for Prime Minister in the next national election.


Amir Peretz, Labor

Until his election as head of the Labor Party, he was chairman of the Histadrut trade union federation. Since earning a seat in the Knesset in 1988, Peretz has been a spokesman for the working class of the Israeli public.

Peretz, 53, was born in the town Boujad, Morocco, where his father was the leader of the Jewish community. His family made aliyah in 1956 and settled in the development town of Sderot, which was primarily composed of Sephardi immigrant families. In Sderot, Peretz was a vegetable farmer and went to high school, but never attended college. He was a captain in the Israel Defense Forces and, during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, he was badly wounded at Mitla Pass and spent nearly a year in the hospital recovering.

Peretz's career as a politician began in 1983 when he ran for mayor of Sderot on the Labor Party ticket. After being elected, he made education and relations with neighboring kibbutzim his top priorities.

In 1994, Peretz joined forces with Haim Ramon to defeat Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's favored candidate to lead the Histadrut. Peretz became Ramon's deputy, but the challenge to party leader Rabin left him isolated within the Labor Party. In 1995, shortly after Rabin's assasination, Peretz became the Histadrut chairman. In 1999, he broke from Labor and created his own party, Ami Echad (One People), which won seats in the Knesset in 1999 and 2003. Peretz merged Am Echad merged into the Labor in 2004 after many social programs were cut under the free market policies of finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Peretz advocates restarting and continuing negotiations with the Palestinians and is prepared to withdraw from most (or all) of the West Bank in order to gain peace with the Palestinians. By solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Peretz believes that many social maladies in Israeli society, such as poverty and the social inequality between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, will also be resolved. He believes that the West Bank settlements are diverting important funds that could be used to battle poverty. Regarding the hot-button issues of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugess, Peretz is said to support a strong and united Jerusalem as Israel's capital for eternity. I oppose with an absolute opposition the right of return within the State of Israel.

Peretz is married to Ahlama and has five children.

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Ami Ayalon, Labor

Ami Ayalon born in 1945 is a former admiral in the Israeli Navy and director of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service. After retiring from the military and the Shin Bet, Ayalon has taken a prominent role in peace efforst, most notably 'The National Consensus', a joint project with prominent Palestinian professor and politician Sari Nusseibeh, which strives to collect signatures of as many Israelis and Palestinians as possible in support of a two state solution which does not include the right of return for Israeli refugees.

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Isaac Herzog, Labor

Isaac Herzog, son of former Israeli President Chaim Herzog. He was born in Israel in 1960 and holds a degree in law and is an attorney by profession.

He was elected to the 16th Knesset in 2003, he has served as a member of the Knesset Finance, Internal Affairs and Environment, and Anti-Drug Abuse Committees, as well as Israel Labor Party Parliamentary Group Whip.

In January 2005, he was appointed Minister of Housing and Construction.

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Professor Avishay Braverman, Labor

Avishay Braverman, the former president of Ben Gurion University recently joined the Labor party after the election of new Labor leader Amir Peretz. Prior to joining Labor, Braverman was highly recruited by other major parties. He is a prominent economist with a BA from Tel Aviv University and a PhD in Economics from Stanford University. Prior to assuming his role as president of Ben Gurion University, he was the Senior Principal Economist and Division Chief at the World Bank. His professional expertise are in economic development, globalization, education, water resource management and Middle East development. Prof. Braverman is the author of several books and articles on economic institutional development, industrial organization, agricultural, economic and public policy.

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Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud

Born in Tel-Aviv on October 21, 1949, Benjamin Netanyahu grew up in Jerusalem. He spent his high school years in the United States, where his father, the historian Professor Benzion Netanyahu, taught history. Returning to Israel in 1967, Mr. Netanyahu enlisted in the Israel Defence Forces and served in an elite commando unit.

Mr. Netanyahu participated in various missions during the War of Attrition, including the Beirut Airport operation. He took part in the rescue of the hijacked Sabena Airlines hostages at Ben Gurion Airport, in which he was wounded. He was also cited for outstanding operational leadership by O.C. Northern Command, the late Maj. Gen. Motta Gur. He was discharged from the I.D.F. in 1972 and reached the rank of captain following the Yom Kippur War.

Mr. Netanyahu received a B.Sc. in Architecture and an M.Sc. in Management Studies from M.I.T. He also studied political science at M.I.T. and Harvard University.

After completing his studies he was employed by the Boston Consulting Group, an international business consulting firm. He later joined the senior management of Rim Industries in Jerusalem.

In 1979 he initiated and organized an international conference against terrorism, under the auspices of the Jonathan Institute - a private foundation dedicated to the study of terrorism, which was named after his brother Jonathan who fell while leading the rescue party at Entebbe.

World leaders, including former U.S. President George Bush and former Secretary of State George Shultz, participated in this conference and a subsequent one in 1984. Mr. Netanyahu has been credited by Mr. Shultz for his central role in effecting a change in American policies on international terrorism.

In 1982, at the request of then-Ambassador Moshe Arens, Mr. Netanyahu assumed the position of Deputy Chief of Mission in the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He was a member of the first delegation to the talks on strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States. Two years later he was appointed Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations and served there for four years.

Returning to Israel in 1988, Mr. Netanyahu was elected to the 12th Knesset as a Likud member and was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister.

During the Gulf War he served as Israel's principal representative in the international arena. In October 1991, he was a senior member of the Israeli delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference, which initiated the first direct negotiations between Israel and Syria, Lebanon, and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.

On March 25, 1993, he was elected Likud Party Chairman and the party's candidate for Prime Minister. Elected on May 29, 1996 as Israel's 9th Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu was sworn in to the post on June 18, 1996, following Knesset approval.

As a part of the general election held during May 1999, Ehud Barak (Labor) beat Mr. Netanyahu with by over 388,000 votes and a 56.08% majority in a direct election for Prime Minister.

Until resigning from the cabinet in protest over the Disengagement, Mr. Netanyahu served as Finance Minister in Prime Minister Sharon's government where he implemented far reaching economic reforms and continued to privatize state owned industries.

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Silvan Shalom, Likud

Silvan Shalom currently serves as the Foreign Minister of Israel, having been appointed to the post in 2003 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Shalom first entered the Knesset in 1992, he previously served as Finance Minister from 2001 to 2003.

After loosing the race for Likud chairman to Bibi Nethanyahu, Shalom accepted the #2 position on the party list and is assured a prominent role in any Likud government.

Born in Tunisia, to a prominent family, Shalom made Aliyah to Israel with his family in 1959. He received a BA in Economics from Ben Gurion University as well as a law degree and MA in Public Policy from Tel Aviv University. He is a journalist by profession.

Shalom is married to prominent Israeli talk show host Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes. He resides in Ramat Gan with his wife and five children.

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Limor Livnat, Likud

Limor Livnat was born in 1950 in Haifa. She holds a B.A. degree from Tel-Aviv University, with professional experience in advertising and public relations.

Livnat has been a Member of Knesset since 1992, and has served as a member of the Knesset Education and Culture Committee, as well as the Labor and Social Affairs Committee. She also chaired the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women (1993-94), the Sub-Committee on Women's Representation, and the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the murder of women by their spouses (1995).

In June 1996, Limor Livnat was appointed Minister of Communications and Currently serves the Minister of Education.

Livnat is married and the mother of two children.

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Yossi Beilin, Meretz-Yahad

Yossi Beilin was born in 1948 in Israel.

He was a key figure in the negotiation of the Oslo Accords and has been involved in a private capacity with many peace proposals.

Dr. Beilin served as spokesman of the Israel Labor Party from 1977-1984. He served as Government Secretary from 1984-1986, and as Director-General for Political Affairs of the Foreign Ministry from 1986-1988.

He was first elected to the Knesset in 1988 and has served as Minister of Economics and Social Development, Minister of Religious Affairs and Minister of Justice.

He is currently a member of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women.

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Benyamin Elon, National Union

Benyamin Elon was born in Jerusalem in 1954.

Benny Elon served as Rabbi of Kibbutz Shluchot from and as a Jewish Agency emissary in the United States from. He is the founder of Yeshivat Beit Orot on the Mount of Olives where he served as dean until his election to Knesset. He currently serves as the Chairman of the National Union Knesset faction.

Elon has been a Knesset Member since 1996, when he was elected on the Moledet ticket. He has served as a member of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee; the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee; the Committee on the Status of Women; and the Committee for Foreign Workers.

Following the assassination of Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evy by Palestinian terrorists, he was appointed Minister of Tourism in 2001.

Elon is married, and has six children. He has published commentaries on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, as well as numerous articles in the local press.

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Efraim Eitam, Renewed National Religious Zionism

Efraim (Effie) Eitam was born in Kibbutz Ein Gev. He holds an MA from Haifa University and studied at the Royal College of Defense Studies in London.

Eitam retired from the IDF in 2000 with the rank of Brigadier General after thirty years of military service. He served as commander of an armored division in the IDF Northern Command and commanded the Israeli forces in southern Lebanon in 1998-1999. He also commanded an elite commando unit in the Entebbe rescue mission in July 1976. He was awarded the medal of valor for courage under fire in the Yom Kippur War.

In April 2002, Efraim Eitam was selected leader of the National Religious Party and was appointed Minister without Portfolio. Served as Minister of Housing and Construction from March 2003 until October 2004, when he resigned from the government in opposition to Prime Minister Sharon's Disengagement plan.

He is married and has eight children.

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Zevulun Orlev, National Religious Party

Zevulun Orlev was born in Israel in 1945. He studied Humanities and Social Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and teaching at Moreshet Yaakov College.

Orlev served in the past as Director General of the ministries of Religious Affairs and Education and Culture. He also served as Director General of the National Religious Party. A Member of Knesset since 1999, he served as Chairman of the Education and Culture Committee and as a member of the House and State Control Knesset Committees. In addition, he served on the Committee for Public Petitions, the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on Violence in Sports, the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on the Issue of Water, and the Special Committee for School Dropout Rates.

In March 2003, Zevulun Orlev was appointed Minister of Labor and Social Affairs. Orlev currently serves as Chairman of the National Religious Party.

He is married and has four children.

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Eliyahu Yishai, Shas

Eliyahu Yishai was born in Jerusalem in 1962.

He served in the IDF and studied at Yeshivat Hanegev and Yeshivat Porat Yosef. He is Chairman of the Shas Party.

Yishai was a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council (1991), Secretary-General of the Shas party (1993-1994) and Director General of El Hama'ayan, the Shas-affiliated educational institution (1995-1996).

Eliyahu Yishai was elected to the Knesset in 1996 and served as Minister of Labor and Social Affairs from June 1996 - July 1999.

He served as Minister of Labor and Social Affairs from July 1999 until his resignation in July 2000.

Yishai served as Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in 2001-2002.

He is married and has five children.

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Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beitenu

Avigdor Lieberman was born in Moldova in 1958 and immigrated to Israel in 1978. He served in the IDF and holds degree in International Relations and Political Science from the Hebrew University.

Chairman of the Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party which he founded in 1999. Lieberman was first elected to the Knesset in 1999 after having served as Director General of the Likud Party and then the Prime Minister's office. He has also served as Minister of National Infrastructure and as Minister of Transportation.

He is most noted for his support of a policy that calls for the re-drawing of Israel's borders. This policy would transfer to the Palestinian Authority large areas of land with heavy Arab population adjacent to the Green Line.

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