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Monday, January 4, 1999 Published at 18:31 GMT

World: Middle East

Israel set for May polls

Mr Netanyahu's coaliltion fell apart over the peace deal

Israeli elections for parliament and prime minister will take place in May after the Knesset voted overwhelmingly in favour of an early poll.

Middle East
Deputies voted 85-27 to move the ballot forward from 2000 to 17 May 1999 with a second round of voting on 1 June if necessary.

The move comes after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu failed to win majority support for his peace policies.

The elections will take place around the time Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is proposing to declare a Palestinian state.

Almost all the members of the opposition as well as a large number of deputies from Mr Netanyahu's splintered seven-party coalition supported the early elections bill.

Mr Netanyahu's coalition crumbled over his handling of the Wye River peace accord signed in October, in which he promised to hand over another slice of the West Bank in return for tougher security measures against Palestinian extremists.

Likud members throw in their hats

The prime minister, who took office in 1996, and his hardline foreign minister Ariel Sharon did not take part in the vote.

Five other deputies in the 120-member Knesset were absent and one abstained.

The early-elections bill passed its first reading on 21 December.

In the following days, three members of Mr Netanyahu's Likud grouping broke away to announce they would challenge him for the prime ministership.

Other prospective challengers for the job include the Labour leader Ehud Barak and popular General Amnon Lipkin-Shahak.

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