Ehud Olmert (Kadima), Prime Minister: The ex-mayor of Jerusalem who filled Ariel Sharon’s post when the former prime minister was crippled by a stroke in January, Olmert lacks Sharon’s military pedigree but is considered a shrewd politician. A scion of the long-dominant Likud party, Olmert was quick to follow Sharon when the former premier left the Likud to form the more centrist Kadima Party last year. Olmert is considered a pragmatist keen to follow up last year’s withdrawal from Gaza and northern West Bank with more far-reaching moves in the West Bank, and to set Israel’s border unilaterally in the absence of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Tzipi Livni (Kadima), Foreign Minister: As the second woman, after the iconic Gold Meir, to hold the Foreign Affairs portfolio, some expect Livni to similarly rise to top office one day. A one-time Mossad operative, Livni cut her political teeth as immigration minister and justice minister in previous Likud-led governments. Well before Hamas won the Palestinian Authority elections in January, Livni invested months in convincing Western nations to isolate the Islamic terrorist group.
Amir Peretz (Labor), Defense Minister: Chairman of the Labor Party and senior partner to Olmert’s Kadima in the coalition government, Peretz secured the key Defense Ministry — raising eyebrows given his lack of military experience. A veteran trade unionist, Peretz is considered a Labor firebrand, but since toppling Shimon Peres as party head last year, he has alienated colleagues who accuse him of lacking diplomatic vision.
Avraham Hirchson, (Kadima), Finance Minister: An Olmert confidant, Hirchson is expected to press ahead with free-market reforms championed by former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As tourism minister in the previous government, Hirchson helped introduce more competition in Israeli commercial aviation and pursued joint projects with his P.A. counterpart.
Shimon Peres, (Kadima), Minister of Regional Development: As Israel’s elder statesman, Peres was guaranteed a senior role in the new government. He is expected to focus his efforts on developing the Galilee and Negev, areas that have received new attention since the Gaza withdrawal prompted a quest to re-house former settlers. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as architect of the Oslo Peace Accords, Peres also could lend diplomatic polish to Olmert’s plan to annex West Bank settlement blocs.
Avi Dichter (Kadima), Internal Security Minister: A former head of the Shin Bet domestic security service who backed the assassination of top Palestinian terrorists, Dichter has made the most dramatic leap from Israel’s security ranks to politics. He is expected to apply his experience to fighting a crime wave sweeping the Jewish state.