Peres Paves the Way for Snap Elections in Israel

“After having consulted with representatives of all parliamentary factions I would like to inform you that I see no possibility of forming a government,” Peres said in a letter to parliament speaker Dalia Itzik, reported the Agence France-Presse.

His statement came a day after Tzipi Livni, the head of the largest party, Kadima, said she had failed to form a coalition government. She was voted head of the centrist party after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stepped down to fight corruption allegations.

General elections are now expected in February 2009, instead of 2010. Olmert will remain interim premier until a new government is in place.

Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, has said she would maintain Olmert’s policies favoring the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel but with the Jewish state retaining its major settlements in the West Bank.

Both the Israelis and Palestinians have pledged to reach a deal before President Bush leaves office in January, but the talks appear to have made little progress, according to the AFP.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned that peacemaking was “teetering” because of continued construction of settlements and of Israel’s controversial separation barrier.

The Israeli elections might delay the process even further.

The governing Kadima party, left-of-center Labour and right-wing Likud have already started outlining their political agendas for the campaign.

Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, has opened his campaign for prime minister by staking out a hard-line position toward Syria and the Palestinians, reported the Associated Press.

He told parliament on Monday that if he becomes prime minister, he will seek peace with Israel’s neighbors. But he says Israel must keep the Golan Heights, large parts of the West Bank or any of Jerusalem, according to the AP.