by Ray Fleming

I srael is holding parliamentary elections in three weeks. The most recent opinion polls by the independent Haaretz newspaper are indicating that prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party are losing ground to the Jewish Home Party whose policies are directed principally at strenghening Israel's hold on the West Bank and increasing the number of settlements built there for Jewish citizens. Polling predictions are that the Likud alliance with the Avigdor's Lieberman's Beiteinu party will win 34 seats of the 120-seat Knesset (ten fewer than expected) while the Jewish Home Party will claim perhaps 17 seats. The new centre-right party formed by Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli foreign minister, has apparently made little impression on the voters thus far.

There is a real danger that the election's outcome will be determined by the parties which take the most extreme positions on the illegally--occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements. Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party, established his credentials by saying that as a reserve soldier in the Israeli Army he would refuse an order to evacuate a Jewish settlement. A Likud government minister has called for the gradual annexation of West Bank territories in order to end international communities' demands for withdrawal to 1967 borders. Tzipi Livni, a moderate among extremists, said such views would make Israel “a boycotted, isolated and ostracised state”.

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