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Saturday, May 15, 1999 Published at 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK


World: Middle East

Arab withdraws from Israel election

Bishara camp was under pressure from Labour to withdraw

Israel Elections Special Report
The only Arab in the race for the post of Israeli prime minister has withdrawn, boosting the election chances of opposition candidate Ehud Barak.

Azmi Bishara said he was withdrawing in order to help defeat incumbent prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.


Correspondent Hilary Andersson: "Mr Bishara is likely to have struck a deal"
The Arab candidate scored less than 3% in opinion polls but the votes of his supporters could give Labour leader Ehud Barak the 50% he needs to win the election in the first round of voting on Monday.

The former defence minister, Yitzhak Mordechai, meanwhile, has announced he will hold a news conference at 0830 GMT on Sunday.

The news increased speculation that he too might pull out.

Tactical withdrawals


[ image: Withdrawal a boost for Barak's candidacy]
Withdrawal a boost for Barak's candidacy
So far, Mr Mordechai, who commands about 4.6% in opinion polls, has resisted pressure from the anti-Netanyahu camp to withdraw to improve Mr Barak's chances.

It is thought Mr Bishara was seeking commitments from the opposition Labour Party to invest in Arab areas, which make up the most deprived and underdeveloped parts of Israel.

BBC Jerusalem Correspondent Hilary Andersson says the signs are that the gap is widening between the two front runners, with Mr Barak leading Netanyahu by 6% to 13% last week.

But Mr Barak's supporters believe his best chance of winning will come in the first round, and Mr Netanyahu's supporters say their man could well improve his position in the second round.



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