In a new challenge to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the right-wing Likud opposition party has launched a legal bid that could hasten the downfall of the government, a party official said Sunday.
Likud, Israel's second largest party, has lodged a High Court petition that would make it easier for an early elections bill to be passed through parliament, said Zalman Shoval, head of the party's foreign relations department.
He told AFP the party believed that the bill, due to go before parliament on Tuesday, required only a simple majority to pass on first reading, rather than an absolute majority of the 120-member Knesset.
Although the bill would require another two readings before becoming law, a vote in favor of early elections would deal a crushing blow to Barak, who has been struggling to form an emergency broader-based government to deal with the two-month tide of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence.
"Experience has shown that a positive vote from the Likud's point of view would start a certain momentum," Shoval said. "It would be a clear statement that the majority of the Knesset is in favor of new elections."
Likud has so far rejected Barak's overtures to join his crippled government, which has been without a majority since a mass walkout by right-wing and religious parties on the eve of the Camp David summit in July over his peace policies.
Likud's hawkish leader Ariel Sharon is blamed by the Palestinians for triggering the violence with a controversial visit to a disputed holy site in occupied east Jerusalem on September 28 -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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