"I will do my utmost not to disappoint you. I want to do what's best for the country," she said after exit polls showed her taking about 48 percent and a 10-point lead over her closest rival in the party vote to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Crucially, all the polls suggested that she had passed the 40 per cent threshold needed to avoid a second round.
Tzipi Livni will become the first woman to lead Israel since Golda Meir in the 1970s. Olmert congratulated Livni on her victory in a vote on Wednesday, Sep 18 to replace him as leader of the governing Kadima party. Olmert whose corruption scandals forced the leadership race, is only expected to formally stand down once Livni confirms she has formed a working coalition.
The Right-wing orthodox party, Shas, which was once happy to sit in Olmert's government is less likely to agree to work with Livni because of her key role in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Livni's attempt to broker an agreement will not be helped by the imminent Jewish holiday season, including New Year and Yom Kippur, which normally lead to a freeze in most political activity.
Under Israeli election law, if she fails to create a coalition commanding a parliamentary majority within 42 days a general election will be called.
The election of Livni is a boost for the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process as she is one of Israel's strongest supporters of attempts to reach a negotiated agreement with moderate Palestinians.
The poll was new territory for Kadima, a party formed less than three years ago by Ariel Sharon.
Livni campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket presenting herself as 'Mrs Clean' in contrast to Olmert.