The moderate Labor Party has chosen young lawmakers to serve as ministers in a new government under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, another step toward forming an alliance that will solidly back a planned Gaza withdrawal.
Members of the 2,188-strong Labor Party central committee voted Thursday for their favorites from a list of candidates to fill seven Cabinet seats. The eighth minister will be Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Labor leader Shimon Peres, expected to serve as Sharon's second vice premier.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops shot and killed an armed Palestinian in the town of Tulkarem, the army said. A second Palestinian gunman was wounded in the incident, the army added.
In other elections Thursday, tens of thousands of Palestinians in 26 towns jammed polling places, casting ballots for council members in the first local elections in the West Bank since 1976. The race was seen as a dry run for a Jan. 9 election to replace Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority. Arafat died in a French hospital on Nov. 11.
The local election pitted the ruling Fatah faction against the Islamic Hamas group, which has gained popularity in four years of fighting with Israel. But local issues and clan loyalties blunted the rivalry.
Sharon has headed a shaky minority government since the summer, when his hard-line coalition splintered over opposition to his plan to pullout of all Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements next year.
Labor has long favored pulling out of much of the West Bank and all of Gaza in exchange for peace and is strongly in favor of Sharon's limited withdrawal.