Frustrated over the deadlock in Mideast peacemaking, Israel's president Monday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call early elections.
Netanyahu quickly dismissed the idea, saying elections would be held as scheduled in 2000.President Ezer Weizman's role is largely ceremonial, and he has no authority to set a new election date. However, the president is very popular and his statements carry great moral weight.
Members of Netanyahu's ruling coalition accused Weizman of over-stepping his authority and siding with the opposition.
Polls indicate that Netanyahu and opposition leader Ehud Barak of Labor would tie if elections were held now.
Weizman said Monday he feared for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, which have been stalled for the past 15 months over the scope of a West Bank troop withdrawal.
"The peace process is limping and has hit several pitfalls in recent months," Weizman said. "If (Netanyahu) does not conduct a referendum, in my opinion the next solution needs to be elections. The sooner we go to elections, the sooner we will know what the public thinks."
Opinion polls have suggested that two-thirds of Israelis support a U.S. plan for an Israeli troop pullback from 13 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians have already accepted the offer.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, said Monday the Palestinians have rejected a U.S. proposal to water down the original withdrawal plan submitted in January by Washington.