Israel's prime minister-designate, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, says if there is no agreement on a new working coalition by tomorrow (Sunday) she will ask President Shimon Peres to call a general election instead. Livni has been unable to persuade the religious Shas party to enter a new coalition government. She has rejected demands by Shas to pump tens of millions of dollars into the religious education budget. Shas is the fourth largest party in the Knesset and part of the departing government.
Livni is trying to replace outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as head of the government midway through its term without the need to call a general election. Polls indicate that if an election were held now, the opposition Likud would likely emerge as the biggest party. For the time being, Olmert remains as Israel's caretaker prime minister.