Israel's election will turn on economic issues, not peace process

Monday, January 21, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

While Israel's main left-wing parties are carrying out the tried-and-true tactic of attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's failure to make peace with the Palestinians ahead of tomorrow's election, those same leftists know full well that true peace currently isn't possible, and that's not Netanyahu's fault.

When pressed on the issue, most left-wing leaders who are being honest and aren't too far to the left will acknowledge that Israel has done what it can, and then some, to reach a peaceful conclusion to the conflict, but has only received more hostility and violence in return.

Take for instance popular new politician Yair Lapid, head of the freshly formed Yesh Atid (There is a Future) faction. Lapid wrote on his Facebook page this week that "the Arabs don't want peace," something Netanyahu has been saying for some time.

Lapid's solution to the problem echoes that of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and is not far off the mark of what Netanyahu advocates. For Lapid, the only thing to do at present is to "put a tall fence between us and [the Arabs...and] to maintain a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel."

Lapid had previously stated that he is against uprooting major Jewish settlements, and totally opposes the division of Jerusalem. These are positions shared by the other top left-wing party leaders, which means that even if they beat Netanyahu, none of these leaders would have any more luck in achieving a genuine and lasting peace agreement with the Palestinians.

And Israelis know this. That's why this time around, the peace process is the least important of the primary election issues for most Israelis. Instead, this election is hinging on the economy and overall security in the face of mounting threats from Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel's economy is generally healthy, but there are problems, many of them the results of the global economic downturn. Economic conditions are rarely ever ideal, and so the leader currently in power will always take a hit in the polls from votes demanding better living conditions. Left-wing leaders are playing heavily on this issue, and it represents the best chance to take seats away from Netanyahu's Likud Party.

On the security front, many Israelis view Netanyahu and his Likud as the only viable option, and the prime minister is spending a lot of effort and money harping on that point.

Compared to previous elections when the peace process was still one of, if not the primary topic, the 2013 election is further evidence that the land-for-peace process is dead in the eyes of most Israelis.

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