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Israel Sets New Elections - 2002-11-06


Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in Wednesday as the country’s new foreign Prime minister. Mr. Netanyahu agreed to serve until new elections are held, which is expected to happen early next year.

VOA-TV’s George Dwyer has more on the latest political developments in Israel.

Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, called for early elections Tuesday, after failing in his bid to rebuild his coalition government. The coalition collapsed last week when the Labor Party pulled out, mainly because of differences over funding for Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Mr .Sharon had previously said it would be irresponsible to hold new elections early, preferring to wait until the scheduled vote.

“I think that I made it very clear what I tried to do, really taking into consideration that having elections now is not the right time for having elections, and I felt that I had to try and have the elections in due time, in October 2003.”

But, after failing to form a stable government, Mr. Sharon now says new elections will be held within 90 days. His main political rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed to become foreign minister in the interim government, but only if new elections were held.

“I placed one condition and one condition alone, and that was for the government to go to early elections. And I am very glad that the prime minister saw his way to do the right thing for the country.”

Mr. Netanyahu said any other solution could have caused economic and social collapse. While in the cabinet, Mr. Netanyahu is expected to challenge Mr. Sharon’s leadership of the right-wing Likud Party in a primary race to elect a candidate to head the new government

Also on Tuesday, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis and wounded two others in a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip Wednesday. The settlement's security chief shot and killed the assailant. The militant Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers clashed in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. At least two Palestinians were killed and 19 others wounded in the fighting. George Dwyer, VOA-TV, Washington.