Barak Ravid
September 17, 2008 - 8:00pm

A day after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won the Kadima Party leadership primary, the foreign ministry was bombarded with congratulatory phone calls and letters from around the globe.

One of the first to congratulate the newly elected chairwoman of the ruling party was U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with whom Livni had developed a close relationship in recent joint diplomatic efforts with the Palestinians.

Another prominent politician to call Livni was U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, who also offered her congratulations.

Among the many letters, Livni received messages from Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. She was scheduled to receive a call from the Jordanian Foreign Minister Salah Bashir.

Additional congratulations poured in from British Foreign Secretary David Milliband and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who announced recently his aim to run against German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the next elections. Foreign Ministers from France, Turkey and Hungary also wished Livni luck, as did the Quartet's envoy to the region former British prime minister Tony Blair.

Earlier Thursday, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also welcomed the Kadima primary election of Livni.

"Livni was deeply involved in the peace process so we think she will continue peace-seeking with us," senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat told reporters in Ramallah.

Erekat, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said he welcomed "the Israeli people's choice."

Livni, although seen as tough, is Israel's chief negotiator and a staunch advocate of a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, while her main rival, Shaul Mofaz, is a comparative hawk within the centrist Kadima party of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who wants to postpone negotiations on a final peace deal.

The rival Hamas administration ruling Gaza had earlier rejected both Livni and Mofaz, with Ismail Haniyeh, the de-facto prime minister of the radical Islamic movement saying they both "deny Palestinians' rights.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum added Livni's election "means the continuation of Israel's aggressive policies against the Palestinian people."

"The competition in the internal Israeli scene is one between extremists and racists," he said sarcastically, adding Palestinians should respond to the election by "sticking to the choice of resistance."

The Islamic Jihad, a smaller, Iranian-backed Palestinian radical faction, called on Abbas' administration to stop "all forms of talks and negotiations with the Israeli enemy."

"Regardless who stands at the head of the Zionist entity's government, nothing will change on the ground," a statement issued by the movement said. "Our struggle against the Zionists is open until they leave our land."


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