Likud lawmaker Yisrael Katz on Wednesday submitted a bill calling for a special election within 60 days to allow Israelis to choose a new prime minister.
Katz said he would prefer an early general election, but recognizes that a majority in the Knesset opposes such a move. Polls show that a great many coalition lawmakers would lose their seats to opposition parties such as Likud if elections were held today.
"I would prefer a general election, but if the alternatives are [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert staying in office or [Vice Premier Shimon] Peres or [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni manipulating to take over, it's definitely better to give the people a chance to decide who the next prime minister will be right now," Katz told The Jerusalem Post.
Katz said his initiative has gained the backing of many MKs from the coalition Kadima, Shas and Pensioner parties.
A spokesman for Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, said the former prime minister is opposed to anything short of general elections.
Netanyahu declined to participate the last time Israel voted only for prime minister, arguing that even if he had won, the make-up of the Knesset at the time would not have permitted him to effectively govern the nation. Ariel Sharon went on to win that election, and cobbled together a shaky minority coalition that managed to hold long enough to reach the 2003 general election.
Acknowledging Netanyahu's current popularity with the Israeli public, Olmert reacted to Wednesday's news by saying that anyone who supports Katz's bill will be handing the premiership to the Likud chairman.