Israeli Right Stokes Fear to Woo Voters

One day to the general elections, Israeli right-wing frontrunners continue to the fear card to woo voters, riding on a hardline shift in a society haunted by security concerns.

"The election on Tuesday will be about one issue – whether this place will remain in our hands or will be handed over to Hamas and Iran," opposition Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu told his supporters.

The hawkish politician, who hopes to make a comeback to premiership, vows that if his party was elected there would be no Palestinian state.

"We will not withdraw from one inch. Every inch we leave would go to Iran."

But hawkish Netanyahu is not the only candidate playing the fear card.

Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the hardline Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), is proposing the transfer of Israeli Arab citizens to Palestinian rule by redrawing Israel’s borders.

The fear rhetoric plays well with Israeli voters who will elect on Tuesday a new parliament and premier.

Polls published on Friday – the last allowed before election day – showed Likud expected to win 27 seats against 25 to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s ruling Kadima party in the 120-member Knesset.

A Haaretz poll found that right-wing parties led by the Likud will win 66 seats in the Knesset.

"A wind from the right is blowing through the country," believes Shlomo Yerushalmi, an analyst on Israeli television.

Michael Barak, an Israeli pollster, agrees.

"I think Lieberman will be the big kingmaker in this election."

Militant Leaders

Analysts agree that hardline platforms appeal more than ever to the Israeli public.

"The public likes activist leaders with a militant approach," Asher Arian, political science professor at the Israel Democracy Institute, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"Talking peace is out of fashion in these elections."

Ze’ev Khanin, a political analyst at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, believes the same.

"Security is the hot topic. Israelis are sick of the peace process, of experiments," he said.

"They want their leaders to stop rocking the boat, they want that everything returns to how it was in the early 90s… before (current president Shimon) Peres and (ex-premier Yitzhak) Rabin began these experiments."

Gerald Steinberg, professor of political studies at Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan university, says Israelis want the generals back in office.

"Before the last elections there was a feeling that the country could do without generals in government, and we saw what that led to in the wars in Lebanon, in Gaza," he said.

"The public today wants leaders with experience in security."
( and Agencies)

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