Monday, December 7, 1998 Published at 21:35 GMT
World: Middle East
Netanyahu wins temporary reprieve
Mr Netanyahu: Last-minute deal eases pressure for now
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has narrowly escaped a vote to call early elections thanks to a parliamentary manoeuvre, which will delay the issue for two weeks.
That period is likely to be extended by another week because of the planned arrival at the weekend of US President Bill Clinton in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
In Washington in preparation for the visit, the Israeli foreign minister, Ariel Sharon, has warned that Israel could annex parts of the West Bank if the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, unilaterally declares an independent state next May.
He said the planned visit would give the Palestinians false hopes.
Votes running against him
One report said Mr Netanyahu realised that the numbers were running against him and the opposition were likely to get the 61 votes needed for the bill to pass its first reading.
Earlier he had challenged his critics to try to topple him.
"If they want the government to fall, let it fall," he told Israeli Army Radio.
Before the delay the vote was being seen as one of the biggest challenges to face Mr Netanyahu since Israelis elected him in May 1996 on a promise to pursue peace with security.
BBC Jerusalem Correspondent Lyse Doucet says Mr Netanyahu will now be under even greater pressure from members of his coalition who remain fiercely opposed to any transfer of West Bank land to the Palestinians.
West Bank clashes worsen
More than 50 Palestinians were wounded in a third day of clashes with Israeli troops firing rubber-coated steel bullets.
More were injured when Palestinian police opened fire in the West Bank city of Nablus.
Our correspondent says Mr Netanyahu faces the same hard choice he confronted when he came to power two years ago, whether to save the peace process or save his right-wing government.
Labour ditches support
Despite opposition from coalition partners, Mr Netanyahu has remained in power with the help of the opposition Labour party which wants to see the Oslo peace accord carried out.
Last month, the prime minister survived a budget vote but only after Arab deputies and the Labour opposition gave their support.
This time they had warned they will not shore him up.