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Israeli political analyst Yossi Alpher
"He can justifiably claim to have a solid mandate from the electorate"
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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Katsav sworn in amid controversy
Moshe Katsav is greeted by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Moshe Katsav says he will be a president for all Israelis
Israel's new President Moshe Katsav has been sworn in at a ceremony in Jerusalem.

President Katsav had earlier made known his views on the thorny subject of Jerusalem - despite a pledge to steer clear of politics.

Speaking only a few hours before the ceremony, he said he believed the Holy City should remain united under Israeli sovereignty.

With his right hand raised, and left hand resting on a copy of the Torah, Mr Katsav swore an oath of allegiance before assembled Knesset members.

Members of parliament then chanted "long live the President" three times, as soldiers sounded ram horns in accordance with Israeli tradition.

I lock up my political views but I don't erase them

Moshe Katsav

Mr Katsav won a shock victory over the government candidate, Shimon Peres, in a Knesset vote on Monday.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Barak is being pressed to resign and call early elections after surviving a confidence vote immediately after Mr Katsav's victory.

Surprise win

Mr Peres was strongly favoured to win the presidency and his defeat by a relatively obscure politician has taken people by surprise.

Mr Katsav, who has 20 years of public service behind him but is a virtual unknown on the international scene, beat the former prime minister and Nobel Prize winner by 63 votes to 57 in a second-round vote.

Ehud Barak: Narrow escape
He said he wanted to bring a new style to the presidency - to be a president for all Israelis.

"I lock up my political views but I don't erase them," he said.

Mr Barak's survival is being seen as an opportunity for him to press ahead with further peace negotiations, unhindered by domestic pressures.

His opponents believe he made too many concessions to the Palestinians during the failed peace negotiations at Camp David in July - on issues such as the control and future status of Jerusalem.

Gambling on peace

The opposition fell 11 votes short of winning the no-confidence motion, which would have forced the prime minister to call an election, thereby putting the Middle East peace talks on hold.

Knesset graph
One minister, Ephraim Sneh, admitted the government had a weak power base in parliament.

But he said Mr Barak had a clear duty to continue attempts to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians.

"The Knesset is divided more or less half and half. But we know that the Israeli people, the majority of the Israeli people, is in favour of... a peace agreement with the Palestinians," he told the BBC.

Correspondents say Mr Barak is gambling that if an agreement is reached in the coming weeks - with parliament going into recess until October - public opinion will bring MPs round to his way of thinking.

The collapse of the peace talks has increased pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians who are committed to reaching a final accord by a mid-September deadline.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | Media reports
Israeli press appraises surprise victor
01 Aug 00 | Europe
Vatican renews Jerusalem plea
31 Jul 00 | Media reports
Barak calls for unity
 | Media reports
Katsav bids for domestic peace
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