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Security tight as Israel gears up for elections

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Security has tightened across the nation as Israel gears up for its general elections. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to win a third term in office with a smaller majority in a coalition government of rightwing and religious parties.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - More than 20,000 police officers have been deployed to secure the vote nationwide.

Netanyahu's Likud party, which has forged an electoral pact with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu group, is predicted to take the most seats in the parliamentary election. It must be noted that no Israeli party has ever secured an absolute majority, which means that Netanyahu, who declares that Iran's nuclear ambitions is his top priority, will have to bring various allies on board to control the 120-seat Knesset.

Netanyahu has vowed to pursue the Jewish settlement of lands seized during the 1967 Middle East war if he stays in power. This goal could sever ongoing relations with the Palestinians, as well as at odds with Washington, and deepen the country's increasing international and diplomatic isolation.

Israel also faces a major budget crisis coupled with looming austerity cuts. There is already widespread public discontent over spiraling prices and the cost of living.

Party leaders and activists have fought to secure the support of the as-yet undecided 15 percent of the electorate.

The rising cost of living has been a major concern for Israelis, with Netanyahu coming in for heavy criticism over his economic record.

Netanyahu, in a last-minute campaign ploy named a former Likud minister known for his success in slashing mobile phone costs to the top post in the Israel Land's Administration. He says that this will significantly lower the price of housing.

Opponents denounced the move as a "fig leaf" and several pundits said it was testimony to the "panic" that Netanyahu was feeling ahead of the vote.

"The prime minister did something yesterday that must not be done in an election campaign, certainly not two days before the public goes to the polls: He projected panic," the Yediot Aharonot newspaper wrote.

Voters in central Tel Aviv are worried about the almost certain prospect of Netanyahu leading another government. "Everyone thinks Bibi will be the prime minister again," Shiri Forer, a supporter of the Labor party said. "But we are hoping the next coalition will move to the left."

Most Palestinian citizens of Israel don't think the vote in Israel will impact their lives. "The left kills us, the right kills us, for us it's all the same," a taxi driver in east Jerusalem wearily declared.

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