Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Likud party scored a solid victory in Israel?s general election Tuesday. As the polls closed, it was predicted the right wing party would win 37 seats in the 120-seat Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
The leader of the rival labor party, Amram Mitzna, conceded defeat with projections showing his party winning only 19 seats, its worst-ever election results. He repeated labor?s promise that the party will not join a coalition government headed by Mr. Sharon.
The Shinui party appears to have come in third. The secular party is expected to more than double its current six seats to finish with 15 seats.
Mr. Sharon now faces the task of putting together a stable coalition?perhpaps from rightist, ultra-national and religious parties?to gain majority support in the Knesset.
For Palestinian officials the Sharon victory is not good news. Ghassan Khatib is the Palestinian minister of employment.
?The reelection of Sharon and his government will produce simply a continuity of the agony and difficulties that both Palestinians and Israelis have been living as a result of the policies and practices of Sharon and his government.?
Security was tight for the elections, with an Israeli-imposed travel ban on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Despite that, seven Palestinians were killed Tuesday. Israeli troops shot and killed four Palestinians in the West Bank town of Jenin.
Three others were killed when the home of a militant exploded near Gaza City. Palestinians say an Israeli missile, fired from a helicopter gun ship, caused the blast. But the Israeli military denied any involvement.