The prospect of new elections loomed large in Israel yesterday a day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stinging defeat when parliament rejected three ministerial nominations in votes backed by rebels in his own Likud party.
Israeli media cited sources close to Sharon as saying that the premier would now seek new elections, the chief question now being whether he should remain in the Likud party or form his own party.
Political observers believed that new elections would take place in next spring, the Israeli media reports said.
Monday evening, in a test of strength, the parliament first rejected three Cabinet appointments presented in an "all or nothing" package but then approved Ehud Olmert as finance minister when Sharon re-submitted his deputy's nomination for a separate vote.
Hardliners in Sharon's rightist Likud bent on punishing him for evacuating Gaza settlements engineered the embarrassing blow to the prime minister.
Taking the Knesset podium, he vowed to his opponents: "There will be consequences."
Olmert's nomination was especially urgent because his term as acting finance minister was due to end this week. Olmert, Sharon's No. 1 ally, had replaced Benjamin Netanyahu, the premier's key rival in the Likud who quit in August to protest Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
The votes, which capped a stormy session after a week of negotiations failed to reach a compromise, underscored divisions in Sharon's party that threaten his ability to govern for the remainder of his term which is due to end next November.
The prime minister has made clear he prefers to avoid a snap election but aides have said he may have no choice if his own party ties his hands.
There has also been speculation that Sharon could leave Likud and form a centrist party to capitalize on broad Israeli public support for the pullout. It was completed in September after 38 years of occupation of the coastal territory.
Sharon turned Israeli politics on its head with his Gaza withdrawal, losing some rightist allies and allying with center-left Labour for the first removal of settlers from land Palestinians want for a state.
Likud dissidents were mindful that Israel could have been hurt in world financial markets if such an important post as the finance minister had been left in limbo for long.
But the rebels succeeded in blocking the other appointments, Zeev Boim as immigration minister and Roni Bar-On as trade minister, saying the two were being rewarded for backing the pullout, which opponents see as encouragement for Palestinian violence.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number