Israeli voters go to the polls February 10

The date was approved by a consensus of faction leaders in the Knesset Tuesday, Oct. 28 after president Shimon Peres announced that no lawmaker had proved capable of forming a viable government to complete the House’s four-year term up until 2010. The Israeli parliament will dissolve itself next week. The finance minister Ronnie Baro-On has urged the House to approve the 2009 state budget beforehand.
Monday, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu became the first party head to lay out a platform for the voter on the economy, education and national security. Iran will not be a nuclear power, he declared, Israel will not return to the pre-1967 boundaries but only to defensible borders; he would hold peace talks from a position of strength and offer the Palestinians an “economic peace” in partnership with Israel.
He declared that the entry of Palestinian refugees to Israeli territory and Jerusalem would be non-negotiable if he were elected.
Most opinion polls show Netanyahu’s Likud and Livni’s Kadima jockeying for top position with defense minister Ehud Barak’s Labor taking a beating. Livni and Barak have begun trying to edge each other off the doves’ platform.
Ehud Olmert, who was forced to step down over corruption charges, promised urgent business, such as the economy and the higher education crisis, would not be neglected during his interim stint as transitional prime minister. His is the fifth successive administration to fall in mid-term.
Kadima was thrown into disarray by Livni’s failure to line up a coalition government. Some questioned her ability to lead Kadima to victory or even to govern. Not all members accept her drive for an accommodation with the Palestinians based on territorial concessions. There are fears it will hurt the party’s polling prospects by making it vulnerable to a right-wing opposition label that Kadima is a left-wing wimpish party, liable to give away too much and re-divide Jerusalem.

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