Israeli left seeks to regain appeal with focus on economy
By Ori Lewis
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - In decline since the peace it sought with the Palestinians unraveled into violence, Israel's Labour Party looks set to regain some lost ground in next week's election after waging an economy-focused campaign.
Opinion polls forecast an easy victory for conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tuesday's vote, which may push Israel further to the right, if as widely expected, he then enlists pro-settler and religious allies to his coalition.
But center-left Labour, bolstered by public discontent with high living costs and the flagging political fortunes of the once-governing centrist Kadima party, seems poised for its strongest parliamentary showing in years.
Netanyahu has made Israel's security the main campaign issue of his right-wing Likud party, fielding a joint list of candidates with the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.
He has cited Iran's nuclear ambitions, civil war in Syria and a new Islamist government in Egypt as reasons why, as Likud's campaign posters say, Israel needs a "strong" leader.
While Netanyahu plays his security card, a revamped Labour Party is using economic and social issues to try to claw its way back, focusing on Israeli concerns about rising living costs.
Opinion polls forecast a respectable second-place finish for the center-left party, now focused on pocketbook rather than peace issues, with talks on Palestinian statehood frozen since 2010 in a dispute over Israel's settlement-building policies.
Abraham Diskin, a political scientist at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, said Labour was also benefiting from a steep decline in support for Kadima, which won the most assembly seats at the last election in 2009, but failed to retain power. Continued...