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Likud Gives Up Its Bid to Move Knesset Elections Up to August

Likud appears to have given up its efforts to advance the Knesset elections from November to August.

Premier Yitzhak Shamir said Thursday on Voice of Israel Radio that he does not intend to initiate a move in Parliament for early elections. Apparently the party lacks support for the move within its own ranks. Cabinet members Ariel Sharon, David Levy and Yitzhak Modai were said to be opposed.

There was little enthusiasm for an early date in the Knesset. Labor would not agree to elections in August, when many of its voters will be vacationing abroad. The religious parties and the far right-wing Tehiya Party, which usually support Likud initiatives, equivocated on this issue.

Labor, by contrast, showed its strength in the 59-45 vote in the Knesset Wednesday to hold municipal elections separately from the national elections. Until now they had been held concurrently, which Likud believed was to its advantage.

The next Knesset elections are to be held Nov. 1, when the term of the present Knesset expires. But that is not a foregone conclusion. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Party, said Wednesday night that he would consider advancing the election date to late September or early October, right after Yom Kippur.

“These elections are very decisive and we need time to explain our views. I will only support early elections if we have sufficient time to hold a proper information campaign,” Peres said.

Most Israeli politicians expect the next Knesset elections to be a referendum on the divergent Labor and Likud policies with respect to the peace process and the future of the administered territories.

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