As the Knesset returned from its three-month summer recess on Monday, its first session since the Palestinian uprising started one month ago, embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak faced a deeply divided parliament without an emergency unity government in place and in the throes of a fresh round of lethal assaults on Israeli targets.
After a bitterly heated debate among feuding party luminaries, the Labor Central Committee on Monday night approved by a two-to-one margin calls by Shimon Peres to join a national unity government with Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon.
With the Labor Party finally deciding this week to join Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon's government, the Likud leader turned in earnest to negotiations with right-of-center parties, only to be confronted with a series of ultimatums over the remaining cabinet spoils.
Friends and even foes of former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are smoothing the way for him to timely mount a challenge against current premier Ehud Barak in a special election in early February. The remaining quandry, however, is whether the Knesset also will dissolve itself and allow voters to truly reflect the huge rightward shift in Israeli public opinion caused by Camp David and the Palestinian uprising.
Its another long, testy day in the Knesset, which is scheduled to decide late Monday evening between two bills that will determine whether Israelis will vote just for prime minister in a few months, or also for a new parliament.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has reacted sharply to a private opinion letter from Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein leaked to the press in which the government's chief lawyer makes an impassioned case that Barak has no moral authority to pursue a hasty, election-eve peace deal with the Palestinians.
Trailing badly in the latest polls, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's campaign for re-election has charged opponent Ariel Sharon with sparking the recent Palestinian intifada, contradicting his government's official position to the outside world.
Falling further behind in successive polls, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is facing increasing calls to set aside in his bid for re-election in favor of the Labor's party elder statesman and leading dove Shimon Peres, who appears to have a better chance at defeating Likud Chairman Ariel Sharon in balloting on February 6.
With a wide lead in the polls, Likud chairman Ariel Sharon confidently launched his official campaign for prime minister on Wednesday night at a packed party gathering in Jerusalem's largest auditorium.