Israeli President Moshe Katsav announced Tuesday morning that he had accepted a request by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to dissolve the Knesset and call elections for ealry 2003. Earlier, Sharon told Israel's president he was going to call early elections after failing so far to form a narrow right-wing coalition.
Katsav held talks overnight Monday with officials in the Prime Minister's Office, as well as with the leaders of the opposition parties, at the end of which he agreed that the elections would be brought forward by some six months.
On his part, Sharon called new elections, saying that he had no choice and accusing his former coalition partners of irresponsibility for causing his government to fall. "Elections at this time are not what the country needs," Sharon told journalists.
Sharon also had harsh words for a far-right faction, the National Union-Israel Beitenu, which had rebuffed his invitation to join the coalition. The prime minister said the faction had come with a long list of demands, including that he change the basic government guidelines and that he reject a new U.S.-backed peace plan.
Sharon said that from his first day in office, two years ago, he decided not to succumb to political blackmail, and that he would not do so now. He said that under no circumstances would he endanger the special relationship between his administration and the White House.
Sharon did not set an exact date for the new elections, but said they should be held in the first days of February.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that he would be willing to serve as foreign minister in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's caretaker government in the run-up to the newly announced general elections.
"We know that we are in the toughest security situation, we know we are on eve of war in Iraq... I told the prime minister right now that I am willing... to take on the position of the foreign minister," he said.
Addressing a press conference, Netanyahu welcomed the early elections, predicting that the Likud Party would enjoy a sweeping victory.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, an adviser to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, said Sharon's government had failed in its promise to provide security to Israelis."What is needed now is an Israeli government committed to peace because this is the only path to security and stability," Abu Rdainah told Reuters. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )