After failing to convince the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party to join a new coalition government, Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni has advised Israeli President Shimon Peres to call for a new election. President Peres did not immediately set a date, saying he wanted to consult with various party leaders on the pending vote first.
Livni accused the Shas Party, one of the more right-wing partners of the would-be coalition, of “blackmail” in the negotiations. The party reportedly pressed Livni to abandon Kadima’s recent policy of peace talks and demanded a raise in government subsidies for the large families which are the base of the party’s membership.
The new election appears to kill off what little hope remained for a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority before the end of President Bush’s term in office, while the results of the new election could harm long-term hopes for the deal far beyond the next few months. Polls suggest former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party will gain significantly in the election. In addition to a hawkish foreign policy, Netanyahu has publicly condemned the Kadima government‘s peace negotiations.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed concern that the new election will “waste” the next few months, while Hamas slammed the move as “a slap in the face to those seeking a peace settlement.”