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Monday, December 21, 1998 Published at 12:04 GMT


World: Middle East

Netanyahu faces confidence vote

The Wye River agreement hangs in the balance

The Israeli parliament meets on Monday for a vote of no confidence into Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over his handling of the latest Middle East peace deal.

Middle East
If he loses the vote, Mr Netanyahu has already pledged to call early elections.

A bill to dissolve parliament is also due for a first reading on Monday, and correspondents say elections are now almost certain to take place in as little as two months' time.

Tough stance


BBC Correspondent Paul Adams: Netanyahu accused of sacrificing the peace process for the sake of his majority
Since signing October's Wye River memorandum, Mr Netanyahu has appeared tough and unyielding - an attempt, observers say, to keep the government together.

Mr Netanyahu says he will not resume implementing the land-for-security deal until the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, meets a number of conditions.

However, many on the right in Mr Netanyahu's government are said to be unimpressed, and correspondents predict some may join his opponents on the left to bring down the government.


Paul Adams in Jerusalem: "Early elections are almost certain"
On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet voted to support Mr Netanyahu's decision to suspend the agreement.

Correspondents say that with the peace process deadlocked anyway, the cabinet decision has more to do with domestic politics than reaching an accommodation with the Palestinians.

The Israeli cabinet is calling on Mr Arafat's Palestinian Authority to:

  • cease incitement to violence
  • carry out its obligation to collect illegal weapons
  • drop its insistence on the release of security prisoners
  • explicitly renounce plans to declare a Palestinian state next May

Palestinians say they have already met all conditions of the agreement, and the United States says Israel should now fulfil its obligations.

Shortly after the cabinet decision was announced, a Jewish bombing suspect was injured in a explosion in Jerusalem.

Peace versus power

Middle East Correspondent Paul Adams says Binyamin Netanyahu has juggled between the pursuit of peace and the maintenance of power for the last two-and-a-half years.

When Mr Netanyahu came to power he also inherited the Oslo peace accords, which involved territorial concessions to the Palestinians at odds with his right-wing instincts.

The consequences of the Oslo process have threatened Mr Netanyahu's coalition before. This time, correspondents say, they may actually end his government.



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