Born in Tel Aviv in 1958 to former leaders of the radical militant group Etzel, Tzipora Malka Livni served as an IDF lieutenant before working for Mossad in the early 1980s, when she spent time as the caretaker of a safe house in Paris. She left in 1983 to get married. An attorney by profession, she received her law degree from Bar-Ilan University before practising for 10 years in a private firm, specialising in public and commercial law.
From 1996 to 1999, she held the position of director-general of the Government Companies Authority, and was first elected to the Knesset as a Likud member in 1999. She served as a member of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and the Committee on the Status of Women.
In 2001, Livni held the Regional Cooperation and Agriculture Portfolios. In 2003, she held the portfolios of Immigrant Absorption, Housing and Construction, Justice and Foreign Affairs. From being a hawk she went on to become a firm supporter of the disengagement plan.
In late 2005, she joined the Kadima Party, formed by then-premier Ariel Sharon. In May 2006, she was appointed Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In May 2007, she called for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resignation in the wake of the publication of the Winograd Commission's interim report into the Second Lebanon war, and offered herself as an alternative leader of Kadima.
While remaining hard-line over issues such as the right of return for Palestinian refugees, she has been a pragmatic negotiating partner with Ahmed Qurei, who leads the Palestinian delegation. Above all, her image as being untainted by corruption or cronyism, as well as her standing on the international stage, has made her popular among the Israeli public.
Ms Livni is married to advertising executive Naftali Spitzer and has two sons, Omri and Yuval.
She has said: "I prefer jeans to a suit, sneakers to high heels, markets to malls. [In Paris] I prefer the Quartier Latin to the Champs-Elysées. In general, I don't like formality at all. It is just part of what I do. You know, when I was young, I went to the Sinai and worked as a waitress."