Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returns Sunday from the United States, plans to announce he wants to run for prime minister, Israel radio reported Sunday.
Netanyahu, the radio reported, plans to initiate a public battle against the clause in the direct election law which stipulates that only a serving member of the Knesset can run in the prime ministerial race in the event elections are precipitated by the resignation of the prime minister.
Netanyahu resigned his Knesset seat, after prime minister Ehud Barak trounced him in the May 1999 elections, said the report.
There are two avenues open to Netanyahu, whereby he can try and force his way into the race for prime minister. First, the Knesset could carry a vote no-confidence in Barak before his resignation goes into effect on Tuesday. Under that scenario, elections would be held both for prime minister and for the Knesset within 90 days. A no-confidence motion is tabled for Monday in the plenum, said the report.
Second, the parliament could pass legislation altering the clause in the direct elections law confining the race to Knesset members, in the event the prime minister resigns, it added.
In the meantime, AFP reported that Ehud Barak, and his political foe Ariel Sharon, said Sunday they would back a change in the nation's electoral law to allow Netanyahu to run for prime minister.
"I would support an amendment to the law that would allow Netanyahu to take part," Barak said in an interview with the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.
Barak, meanwhile, held a cabinet meeting Sunday before handing in his resignation to President Moshe Katsav.
His office said he would go in person to see Katzav at 1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT), according to the agency.
Barak said late Saturday he was quitting to stand again in new elections for the prime minister's post alone, as permitted under Israeli law, which would be held within 60 days.
Barak announced late Saturday his decision to resign and call for an election for the nation's top job to be held in 60 days. He described the poll as a referendum for peace.
Barak's decision, for the moment, prevents Netanyahu, who is streaking ahead in opinion polls, from running against him as the only current members of the Knesset, or parliament, can stand in the prime ministerial election.
"I would back a change in the law that would allow any citizen to take part, even if he is not a member of the Knesset," Sharon said on Israeli public radio.
Sharon, a 72-year-old former general, took over as Likud party leader following Netanyahu's drubbing in the May 1999 election.
Sharon denied rumors that he had coordinated with Barak over his resignation.
Likud's parliamentary caucus would meet at midday (10.00 GMT) on Sunday to discuss strategy after Barak's announcement, spokeswoman Iris Goldman told AFP - (Several Sources)
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