Adam Gonn
October 12, 2012 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- In the Israeli elections scheduled on Jan. 22, 2013, the right-left fault line may not be drawn as in the past along issues such as relations with the Palestinians, but over Iran's controversial nuclear program and Israel's economy, analysts said.

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Channel 2 political news correspondent Amit Segal said the longstanding deadlock in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has made potential peace talks moot, so the Israel-Palestinian issue is currently unlikely to be one of the major election issues.

Instead, the country's economic situation will take center stage, and more than ever due to large-scale protests through the summer of 2011 when hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to call for lower food and housing prices, Segal said.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced earlier this week that he would seek earlier elections, one of the main factors behind the decision was he wanted to ensure that the government would pass a "responsible budget."

While Israel has, to a large extent, escaped the global financial crisis that has battered the United States and Europe, there are increasing signs indicating that it stands to be affected by the downturn in the near future.

Combined with the protests of 2011, this has led to a situation where the government needs to cut its spending -- but at the same time maintain its socio-economic programs. Therefore, analysts said, the election debates will probably focus on where cuts need to be made and which sector of the society should pay for them.

As to foreign policies, according to Segal, the main question will be how Israel should deal with the Iranian nuclear issue.

Dr. Guy Ben-Porat, of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told Xinhua Wednesday that Netanyahu "is going to try and push the (election) debate into, first, the security issues such as the Iran issue."

"He will talk about the macro economic issues and security, and that will be his (bid) for the elections," he added.

Prof. David Nachmias, of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, told Xinhua Thursday that the number one foreign policy issue will be Iran and its nuclear weapons program, which Israel considers an "existential threat."

"Netanyahu will definitely overdo it. That's his winning card and his is going to push it as much as he can. At the same time, there are problems in Egypt, there are problems in Sinai -- but he will focus on Iran," Nachmias said.

He added that while other candidates will try to focus the debate on local issues like the economy and point to opinion polls showing that most Israelis oppose a strike on Iran, Netanyahu will not face any electoral backlash as a result.

In the past the peace process with the Palestinians was the most important foreign policy issue in Israeli politics, but now " absolutely nobody talks about it, nobody cares about it anymore; not left-wing or the right-wing," Nachmias said.

Segal said Netanyahu would most likely remain as the prime minister after the elections, with the only question being the makeup of his coalition. Should there be a new coalition, its composition will be based largely on how the mandates are divided among the center-left parties such as Labor, Kadima and the newly- established Yesh Atid (Future) party, he said.


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