Key issues in Israel's election

Israel holds a parliamentary election on Tuesday, as candidates focus on decisive issues in their campaigns to rally voters around them.

    Supporters of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu in a rally

    West bank settlements, Hamas victory in Palestinian elections, Iran's nuclear threat and the Israeli economy are some of those issues.
       
    Settlements

    Some call the vote a referendum on the plan of Ehud Olmert, the interim prime minister, and his centrist Kadima party to dismantle isolated Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as a way of breaking from conflict with the Palestinians.

    Olmert intends to impose Israel's final borders by 2010 if a Hamas Palestinian government does not recognise Israel and disarm to allow peace talks.

    Most Israelis back more pullouts after last year's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
       
    Settlers are bitterly opposed to giving up land they see as theirs by biblical birthright and are trying to rally voters around right-wing parties, such as the Likud.
       
    Olmert has said uprooted settlers will be moved to large settlement blocs that Israel will keep.
       
    Palestinians condemn Olmert's unilateral plan, saying it would not foster peace and that the retention of major settlement blocs would deny them a viable state.

    Hamas
       
    No mainstream party advocates talking with Hamas, an Islamist resistance movement sworn to Israel's destruction that won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January.
       

    Kadima party intends to impose 
    Israel's final borders by 2010

    Olmert has said he will give Hamas a "reasonable" amount of time to reform and embrace interim peace agreements before he moves on his unilateral plans.
       
    Not dealing with a Hamas government would probably suit many Israeli voters, disappointed with left-wing visions of peace as well as right-wing determination to keep all occupied land at any cost.
       
    Hamas was behind nearly 60 bombings during a Palestinian uprising that began in 2000, though it has largely followed a truce for more than a year.
       
    Iran
       
    Many Israelis see Iran as the country's biggest security threat because of its nuclear programme.

    Israel believes Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, though Tehran says the programme has only civilian ends.

    Israel has not ruled out a military strike, but says it prefers to see US-led diplomatic pressure on Iran run its course.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

    In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor to prevent Saddam Hussein from getting nuclear weapons. Israel is believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal.

    Economy

    Amir Peretz, the leader of the Labour party, has tried without much success to make fighting poverty and raising minimum wage levels themes of the election campaign.

    Nevertheless, the issues have still featured during debates, with all major parties pledging to fight poverty.
       
    Despite its hi-tech economy and economic growth rate of 5.2% last year, a fifth of Israelis live below the national poverty line.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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