Israeli Parliament Backs Early Elections Bill in Preliminary Vote
Israeli MPs on Wednesday backed first reading of a string of bills calling for early elections in yet another blow to troubled Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
The vote on the first bill sponsored by the opposition Likud party was carried by 61 votes to 51 with six abstentions. However, it requires a further three readings before becoming law, and parliament is due to break for its summer recess this week until late October.
Another four bills sponsored by other groups passed with similar margins.
The votes came on the heels of Foreign Minister David Levy's announcement he is quitting Barak's government in protest at his peace polices. Although his resignation does not officially take effect for another 48 hours, he joined the opposition in voting for the elections bill.
Levy and Israel's right-wing have been angered by Barak's reported willingness to make compromises in negotiations with the Palestinians on east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital in whole or in part and disagreement over the fate of the city led to the breakdown of the Camp David peace summit last month.
Barak, speaking to reporters ahead of the vote, downplayed its significance.
"I cannot see the Knesset dissolving itself and going to elections," Barak said.
Barak has been without a parliamentary majority since three right-wing and religious parties quit the coalition on the eve of the Camp David summit.
Barak stressed that the Israeli people were behind his peace policies, even if the Knesset was not.
"We have the confidence of the people and their belief in the major changes that are taking place now," Barak said.
"All I can do is turn to the MPs and ask them to show more national responsibility in the next session and little less sectionalism," he added – OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)