14 September 2008

* Tzipi Livni

First Name: Tzipi
Last Name: Livni
Title: Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
Organization: Knesset
Country: Israel
Date of Birth: 05/07/1958
Place of Birth: Tel Aviv
Family: Married , 2 children 
Contacts: zlivni@knesset.gov.il 
L.L.B. at Bar Ilan University
Lieutenant in the Israel Military Service 
Languages: English, French 
Politics: Kadima 
  • Vice Prime Minister
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Attorney
  • Minister of Justice 
  • Minister of Regional Cooperation
  • Minister Without Portfolio 
  • Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Minister of Immigrant Absorption
  • Minister of Housing and Construction
 Israel's most powerful woman, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, is among the top contenders to replace Ehud Olmert as leader of the centrist Kadima party and prime minister of the Jewish state.

Livni has been a rising star on Israel's political scene for years but only emerged publicly as a candidate for prime minister in July, shortly before Olmert announced he would resign to battle a wave of corruption allegations.

Although polls show her leading the race ahead of Wednesday's centrist Kadima party leadership vote, she faces competition from Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, a hawkish former general who has stressed his security credentials.

Two polls on Friday found Livni leading Mofaz by more than 15 points, but a third poll on Thursday put her only five points ahead, and experts said the surveys could prove unreliable given the relatively small size of the party.

Both candidates would still probably lose to right-wing Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu if general elections were held.

Livni, a 50-year-old lawyer who defied her staunch nationalist background to become the number two in government and in Kadima, is today the government's most popular minister and the country's most powerful woman since Golda Meir, who was prime minister from 1969 to 1974.

She brushed off the comparisons last week, however, telling a local paper: "I am not Golda Meir the second, but Tzipi Livni the first, and I will lead Israel in the coming period."

As foreign minister, Livni heads the Israeli negotiating team in peace talks with the Palestinians that were revived at a US conference last November.

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.