Barak Says General Elections This Year Are 'Entirely Possible'

Defense Minister tells Labor lawmakers that the die 'has been cast,' the political situation cannot last.

Defense Minister and Labor party chair Ehud Barak told his party lawmakers Monday that it was "entirely possible" that elections for a new prime minister and Knesset would be held by the end of this year.

"The die has been cast and the political situation cannot last," Barak said at a Labor faction meeting.

"It's entirely possible that there will be elections this year," said Barak. "We support governmental stability, but we are ready ? for elections." In an apparent appeal to members of Olmert's Kadima party, Barak added that "It's not the time to drag one's feet, rather for purposeful and correct action."

Last week, Barak said that if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not leave his post in the wake of the investigation that is being conducted against him in the "affair of the envelopes" ? centering on allegations that Olmert took cash bribes from U.S. Jewish businessman and donor Morris Talansky ? the Labor party would act to set an agreed-upon date for early elections.

Knesset Interior Committee Chair MK Ophir Pines-Paz, who presided over the session, urged Kadima to take a "concrete step" within a reasonable time frame. Pines-Paz said that in two weeks a preliminary vote is expected on a bill to dissolve the Knesset. If Kadima does not take action by then "We will have to support this bill."