News Brief

Israel will hold new general elections, President Shimon Peres confirmed. Peres made his announcement at the opening of the Knesset winter session Monday afternoon, saying there was no chance of forming a new government coalition. He made the decision after meeting Monday morning with the heads of the party factions, most of whom supported early elections.

“This is the time for Israel’s Knesset and political system to do some deep soul-searching,” Peres told the Knesset. “It is never too late to fix mistakes.”

The Israeli parliament now has up to three weeks to dissolve itself and set an election date, which will likely be February or early March.

Prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni on Sunday had asked Peres to declare new general elections, saying she could not assemble a coalition. Livni, the foreign minister, won the Kadima Party primary in September following Ehud Olmert’s resignation.

Livni had managed to bring the Labor Party, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, on board, but she failed to reach an agreement with the Orthodox Shas party or other potential coalition partners to pass the 61-seat threshold necessary to become prime minister.

“After the primaries, I said that I believed in stability and was committed to seeing through the process of forming a government,” Livni told Israel’s Cabinet meeting on Sunday. “Recent days have seen coalition demands become impossible, and there was a need to draw the line, to say ‘no more.’

“I was prepared to pass budgets I believe in for needy families and social causes, but when it became clear that every person and every party was taking advantage of the situation to make illegitimate demands — both economic and diplomatic — I decided to put a stop to it and go to elections.”

Until the new elections take place, Olmert will stay on as caretaker prime minister. New polls reported Monday show Livni and Kadima ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party.

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