Tzipi Livni is set to become Israel's second most powerful politician when the country's new government is sworn in on Thursday.

Livni will assume the role of deputy to interim prime minister Ehud Olmert, and she will remain in the post of foreign minister that she has held since January. Her new role as vice premier will make her the most influential woman in Israeli politics since Golda Meir served as prime minister from 1969 to 1974.

Livni was born in Israel in 1958 and is a lawyer by profession. Before entering politics, she worked for the Mossad, Israel's secret service agency, and practiced law in a private firm for 10 years.

She was first elected to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in 1999 as a member of the right-wing Likud party. She become a cabinet minister in 2001, and held several portfolios in the following years, including the Justice ministry.

In November last year, she joined former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in quitting the Likud party to form the new centrist party, Kadima. Before Sharon fell into a coma in January, he gave Livni the role of foreign minister in his caretaker government.

Livni's departure from the Likud marked a significant break with her nationalistic heritage.

Her father, Eitan Livni, was a legendary member of the Jewish rebel movement, the Irgun, that fought British troops in Palestine in the 1940s. He was jailed by the British for sabotaging railway lines and other strategic installations.

After Israel's War of Independence, Eitan Livni joined the Herut party, a forerunner of the Likud, and served three terms as a Knesset member.

Some information for this report provided by AP.