The unofficial three-way race for prime minister is also a three-way rumor mill, as conspiracy charges swirled in recent days between the rival camps of Labor nominee Ehud Barak, Likud's Ariel Sharon and virtual candidate Shimon Peres.
The campaign of front-runner Ariel Sharon hit a few bumps in Israeli high schools in recent days, but among the country's adult electorate, he still looks on course to survive his opponents scare tactics and complete a remarkable political comeback.
A new political tempest erupted in Israel after it was learned that representatives of Likud prime ministerial candidate Ariel Sharon secretly met in Vienna on Thursday with a key economic adviser to PLO chief Yasser Arafat, raising the ire of Prime Minister Ehud Barak and even members of Sharon's own Knesset faction caught off guard by the meeting.
If all those lopsided opinion polls are reliable, Israeli voters will install Ariel Sharon as their next prime minister on Tuesday, completing a most remarkable comeback for this native-born farmer whose long military and political record engenders considerable doses of both respect and scorn.
In the final days of the snap Israeli election for prime minister, incumbent Ehud Barak courted the Arab and Russian immigrant blocs, but had little chance of catching the surging Likud candidate Ariel Sharon, especially after the ultra-Orthodox jumped on his bandwagon.
Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon is pressing on with his bid to persuade vanquished Israeli leader Ehud Barak and the Labor party to join a national unity government, but differences still remain over the coalitionâ€™s policy guidelines and the distribution of cabinet portfolios.
Likud leader Ariel Sharon's decisive win in last week's election and the subsequent escalation in Palestinian violence have spurred calls for Labor to hurry up and join a unity coalition.
After the Knesset voted early Tuesday morning not to dissolve, the special Israeli election for prime minister only appeared to come down to a race between incumbent Ehud Barak and Likud chairman Ariel Sharon. But prominent dove Shimon Peres looked at his numbers in the polls and announced on Wednesday he plans to run as well, adding more pressure on Barak to seal a quick peace deal in renewed talks with the Palestinians.
The special Israeli election for prime minister heated up on Tuesday when local air waves were opened to a steady diet of campaign ads for the Labor and Likud candidates, with both parties depicting the opponent as dangerous.
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak delivered on Monday his most outspoken comments yet on the violent Palestinian intifada since it drove him from office last February, insisting there should be no more negotiations with PLO chief Yasser Arafat.
Israel and the Palestinians concluded six days of peace talks in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba without an agreement, ending any hope of a breakthrough before Israeli elections on February 6th. However, the sides issued a joint statement saying there was "significant progress."
Israel and the Palestinians begin a new round of peace talks today in a last ditch effort for an agreement before elections on February 6th. The Israeli cabinet agreed to the Palestinian proposal for the talks at a special cabinet meeting last night. However, both sides are playing down expectations. "In the short time left, with the gaps that exist, the chance of bridging them is not great," Prime Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio today.
Ehud Barak's chances of remaining Israel's prime minister increased dramatically in the middle of last night when the Knesset voted against holding general elections at this time.
Prime Minister Ehud Barakâ€™s office has confirmed that the Israeli leader held another telephone conversation with US President Bill Clinton earlier this week regarding the peace process.
The Labor party on Friday voted for eight ministers to fill its allotted seats in the emerging government of Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon, with MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a reserve brigadier general, besting several challengers for the position of defense minister and elder party statesman Shimon Peres winning the foreign ministry post by default.
Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon looks set to meet his Wednesday deadline for presenting his government to the Knesset, after his coalition negotiating team initialed a deal with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party Sunday night giving him a parliamentary majority of 64 seats.
After quickly pulling together a broad coalition of national unity, Israeli war hero and long-time politician Ariel Sharon was sworn in as Israel's 11th prime minister in a special Knesset session late Wednesday evening, becoming the leader of the largest cabinet in the nation's history.
Pledging to work for peace but only if Palestinian violence stops, Israeli war hero and long-time politician Ariel Sharon was warmly welcomed to his new position at the Prime Minister's Office by outgoing leader Ehud Barak on Thursday.
With elections only a week away, the biggest concerns in the Likud camp of front-runner Ariel Sharon have less to do with what will happen on election day, and more about how Sharon can ensure a stable government once he is elected.
QUOTES FROM SHARON SUPPORTERS:
"[The Oslo Accords were] illusions that one-sided concessions to an authoritarian regime, who is ready to use terror as the leverage on us, can really bring peace. Ariel Sharon will no doubt try to build the government which will be based on the broad consensus and to negotiate, to negotiate on the basis of reciprocity." - Natan Sharansky, noted Soviet refusenik and head of the Yisrael B'Aliyah party.