Israel’s ruling Likud party has voted in favour of opening talks with the country’s main opposition in a bid to stave off early election and keep Ariel Sharon’s Gaza pull-out plan on track. The Israeli prime minister has been forced to approach the Labour party following the withdrawal from government of two parties opposed to his Gaza strategy. He won the poll of Likud’s 3,000-strong Central Committee with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Labour, in line with most Israelis, supports the Gaza plan. The ballot paves the way for re-entry to the highest levels of government for Labour leader Shimon Peres. Coalition talks could start today though Labour still has to deal with its own internal divisions on the issue. Under the Gaza plan all Jewish settlements would be pulled out of the Palestinian territory, leading to what Sharon claim’s would be a more secure Israel.