JERUSALEM – The Israeli Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that national elections will be held in November 2006, a year earlier than originally planned, in a decision that could complicate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's (search) plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip (search).
An expanded panel of seven justices overruled an earlier decision by the court that elections should be held in 2007. The court decided Tuesday that a loophole in an election law that was hastily written in 1999 meant elections should be held in 2006.
Sharon has pledged to carry out his withdrawal from Gaza by the end of 2005, but continuing Gaza violence or political maneuvering could delay that plan.
A spokesman said Sharon would not comment on the court's decision.
General elections are supposed to be held every four years, unless parliament is dissolved as a result of the collapse of a governing coalition. Elections were last held in February 2003.
In recent years, Israeli governments have collapsed well before their four-year terms expired. Israel has had four general elections since 1996 — three for parliament and one special election for prime minister.
Sharon's coalition has faced several recent political threats over his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
Two lawmakers of the hard-line National Religious Party resigned from the government last month, leaving Sharon with 59 supporters in the 120-seat parliament. On Monday, opposition lawmakers succeeded in garnering 56 votes for a no-confidence motion, five short of what they needed to topple the government.