Born in Haifa, Livnat studied at Tel Aviv University. She joined Likud in the 1970s, becoming head of its youth organisation in 1977.She first entered the Knesset on 14 April 1992, shortly before the 1992 elections, as a replacement for Haim Corfu. She retained her seat in the elections, and in her first full term, served as chairwoman of the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women, the Subcommittee on Laws of Personal Status and the Parliamentary Committee for Investigating Murder of Women by their Spouses.
She retained her seat in the 1996 elections, and was appointed Minister of Communications in Binyamin Netanyahu's government. During her term, she attempted to increase competition in the Israeli communications sector by weakening and privatizing Bezeq, which had previously held a monopoly over the country's landline phone sector.
Tensions between Livnat and Netanyahu climaxed in the former's resignation from government in 1997 and subsequent attempt to end Netanyahu's leadership of the Likud. Following Netanyahu's resignation from the Likud leadership after the party's defeat in the1999 elections, Livnat supported Ariel Sharon's successful attempt to serve as the next chairperson of the party. After Sharon's victory over Ehud Barak in the special election for Prime Minister in 2001, Livnat was appointed Minister of Education in both governments he formed.
She was re-elected in 2003, and continued to serve as Minister of Education until Likud left the coalition (now headed by the newly formed Kadima) in 2006. She retained her seat in the 2006 and 2009 elections, after which she was appointed to the new post of Minister of Culture and Sport. Prior to the 2013 elections she lost her place as the top-ranking woman in Likud, finishing below Tzipi Hotovely and Miri Regev in the party primaries. However, she was re-elected and continued in the ministerial role.
In December 2014 Livnat announced that she was leaving politics, and would not run in the March 2015 elections.
Livnat has also served as Vice Chairwoman and Acting Chairwoman of the World Likud Movement.
Personal views and life
Although overtly secular, Livnat is generally identified as a right wing conservative, both morally and politically. A supporter of Revisionist Zionism, she ideologically opposed theOslo Accords as well as the notion of relinquishing control over the West Bank. In this light she has voiced concerns over US President George W. Bush's Road Map for Peace. She also regularly attends events in honor of the pre-independence militant organizations, such as the Irgun and Lehi. However, she did not actively oppose Ariel Sharon'sdisengagement plan.
In April, 2011, Livnat's nephew, Ben-Joseph Livnat, 25, was shot dead by a Palestinian Authority policeman when trying to break through a Palestinian road block after an unauthorized visit to the Joseph's Tomb in Palestinian-administered area of Nablus. Livnat described the shooting death of her nephew as an act of terrorism. An IDF report released a month later concluded that the event was not a premeditated terror attack, but that the policeman had acted "maliciously" and with the intent to harm.
In an interview with Army Radio on December 25, 2011, Livnat, who currently leads the Interministerial Committee on the Status of Women, opined that in entirely ultra-orthodox areas of the country, segregation on public transport should be permitted. "I don't think we should tell them how to live," said Livnat, "We should live and let live...When we are speaking about a mixed city, however, or a city where there are haredim or religious people who oppose segregation, we must fight the phenomenon of public segregation between sexes," she added.
A resident of Tel Aviv, Livnat is married and has two children.