The politician vying to become Israel’s first woman prime minister since Golda Meir disclosed personal details of her former career in the intelligence agency Mossad, hinting that she considered “short relationships” to relieve her loneliness as a secret agent.

Tzipi Livni, 50, whose centrist Kadima party emerged as the largest single group in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, after elections last week, is now scrabbling to form a coalition government. She is expected to be beaten to the prime minister’s job by Binyamin Netanyahu, 59, leader of the conservative Likud party.

In an interview given 14 years ago but published in full for the first time last Friday in a pro-Livni newspaper, she described the pressures of working undercover for Bayonet, Mossad’s elite hit squad, and her role in a secret mission during the 1982 war with Lebanon.

She recalled how, as a 22-year-old living undercover in a fashionable part of Paris, she had found it impossible to form lasting relationships.

“A romantic relationship requires honesty between a couple,” she told her interviewer. “I couldn’t, of course, develop such a relationship with anyone, but a short relationship does no harm, if you keep to the rules."

“It’s a bit like forcing yourself not to get drunk in order to keep control of your mouth.”

Livni said she had been unable to reveal to even her closest family that she was a spy. When her father visited her in Paris, he could not understand why a woman who had been a brilliant law student “was wasting her time in Europe doing nothing."

Working for Mossad was like “living constantly in two worlds," she said. “On the one hand, I did things of which I was very proud, and I felt I was part of a special force, contributing to the security of Israel. On the other hand, I had to keep my mouth shut and not to tell anyone about it.”

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