Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, bowing to what seemed
inevitable, agreed on Tuesday to call new elections. The date
remains to be set. Barak said that elections could be as long
as nine months away, though most opposition leaders expect the
poll to be held in five or six months.
Several bills passed on Tuesday to dissolve the Knesset and
call new elections. The day was one of intense political
activity, but as it wore on it became evident that the bills
would pass with large majorities.
With nothing else to show for his time in office, Barak still
hopes to reach some agreement with the Palestinians with which
to go to the voters.
Until now, Barak's goal has been to reach an overall agreement
with the Palestinians that would bring absolute closure to what
he has called "the 100 year war" with the Palestinians.
Barak seems to be hoping that a willingness to reach a partial
agreement where the Palestinians will not be forced to make the
kind of concessions they would have had to make at Camp David
will help bring Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat
back to the negotiating table.
But Barak is also looking for a way to ensure his own political
survival. If new elections are just around the corner, perhaps
in three months, there is no way Barak could wrap up a final-
status agreement with the Palestinians. However it is at least
possible to reach some kind of partial agreement. Barak needs
some kind of agreement with the Palestinians to be able to take
with him to the electorate, since he has nothing else.