When Ehud Barak tendered his resignation as Prime Minister of Israel on December 10, 2000, the action was viewed as a shrewd political move to prevent his rival, who he was trailing in the polls, from running against him. According to the law, Benjamin Netanyahu could not run in a special election for prime minister because he was not a member of the Knesset.
Although legislation was introduced to allow Benjamin Netanyahu to run in the special election, Netanyahu said he would only run if the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and hold new general elections. On December 18, the Knesset passed the so-called Netanyahu amendment that would enable a non-Knesset member to stand for prime minister by a vote of 65 to 45 with 4 abstentions. Later, however, the Knesset voted 69 to 49 against general elections.
The difference in the latter vote was the opposition of the Shas Party, which supported the Netanyahu Amendment and opposes Barak's reelection. Commentators suggested that Shas — which now holds a record high 17 seats in the Knesset — feared losing seats in a new general election.
Elections will now be held on February 6, 2001, for prime minister only, with Ehud Barak facing Likud leader Ariel Sharon. Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres is also reportedly weighing a third party candidacy.
Source: Jerusalem Post, (December 19, 2000)