Adam Gonn
January 18, 2013 - 1:00am


With Israel's parliamentary elections only five days away, the economy is expected to become the top issue that the next government will have to deal with, eclipsing the stalled negotiations with the Palestinians.

Data released last week by the finance ministry showed that the country's budget deficit grew to 4.2 percent of the GDP, more than doubling the current government's target of 1.5 percent. And to make the matter worse, the Israeli economy grew by 3.3 percent in 2012, hitting its lowest level in a decade, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.

According to some Israeli experts who spoke to Xinhua, budgeting after the elections might be even tougher than inching toward a budget before the elections.

"It seems now that the first thing they will have to deal with is the economic situation and the big deficit in the budget and they have to approve a new budget," Shlomo Mizrahi, a professor of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told Xinhua Thursday.

He added that when it comes to other issues such as the standstill in the negotiations with the Palestinians, the government will take a more passive role and wait to see what is going to happen instead of taking a more active approach.

Benjamin Bental, a professor of the University of Haifa, said " We are talking right now about 4.2 percent of the GDP, which in the long run means that Israel will lose credibility in the international financial market and face potentially higher interest rates on the national debt."

"It is very serious and it's not sustainable," Bental noted.

Bental further said the current government is committed to reducing the deficit, arguing that since the next government will be very similar to the current one, efforts to reduce the deficit would continue.

With most opinion polls indicating that Benjamin Netanyahu will continue to be prime minister, much of the pre-election speculation has focused on which parties could become part of his next coalition government.

One speculation is that instead of continuing on cooperating with the right-wing and ultra-orthodox Jewish parties that make up the current government, Netanyahu will try to include three center- left parties, namely Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid (Future) party, HaTnua party led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Labor party under the leadership of Shelly Yachimovich.

Mizrahi cautioned against the argument that if these three parties, which all have a strong socio-economic agenda, join the government, finding a way to cut the budget deficit will be easier than with a purely right-wing government.


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