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Backgrounders on Key Issues

While the issues facing Israel and Israelis over the past 57 years have consistently focused on issues of national security as well as relations with neighboring Arab States, the focus is gradually changing. At the outset of this election campaign many analysts were proclaiming that this would be the first Israeli election with economic and domestic issues at the forefront of public debate, alongside security. However, with the sweeping Hamas victory in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council and the continued threat of Iranian nuclear capabilities, domestic issues have once again taken a back seat to the traditional issues: Security and Diplomacy.

This section provides brief analysis of primary issues affecting Israeli public opinion and government policy. Although not the only topics of debate during the election campaign, many of these issues do elicit significantly different approaches from various Israeli political parties.

Foreign Affairs Domestic Affairs

FOREIGN AFFAIRS


Palestinian Statehood

Once a hot-button topic supported by the extreme Left, the notion of a Palestinian state has gradually gained acceptance since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. This acceptance culminated with Ariel Sharon's recognition of the Road Map peace plan which explicitly calls for the creation of a Palestinian state. The acceptance of a Palestinian state was advanced farther by the Sharon led Disengagement from Gaza and Northern Shomron which is the first physical step on the road to a Palestinian state. Click here for more...

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The Peace Process

Achieving peace with neighboring states has been as goal of Israel since its inception as witnessed by Israel's Declaration of Independence that reads: "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East." Click here for more...

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Iran

As a documented state sponsor of terrorism for years, Iran has long-been on the radar of the Israeli security services and government officials as a threat to the security of the State. However, the election of conservative President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in August of 2005 and Iran's continued insistence on pursuing nuclear capabilities has brought Iran to the fore of Israeli and international consciousness as an existential threat to Israel's existence and world peace. Click here for more...

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Syria

Syria is rife with internal and external problems which are cause for concern for Israel's security establishment. In the wake of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister and business leader, Rafiq al-Hariri , and the implication that Syria was behind the attack, Syria was forced to withdraw its forces from Lebanon ending its decades long de facto control of the country. Syrian President President Bashar el-Assad has been under immense international pressure to reform the Syrian system and end Syrian sponsored terrorism. Click here for more...

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DOMESTIC AFFAIRS

The line between domestic and foreign affairs in Israel is a very fine line. Although many of the following issues are inextricably linked to Foreign Affairs, the following are primarily issues of domestic concern since they have the potential of affecting the nature of the Jewish State.


Jerusalem

Today's capital of Israel, Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life during the First and Second Temple periods and the focal point of Jewish yearning for Zion after exile by the Romans in 70 C.E. Israel established Jerusalem as its capital in December 1949, and on January 1, 1950 transferred the entire government to the then-divided city. Click here for more...

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Disengagement

Less than three months after completion of the Israel's Disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria, the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fell. Now, as Israelis consider their choices for the current election, the potential for future withdrawals is a major factor in how most Israelis will vote. Israelis are grappling with momentous decisions that will shape the future of the Jewish State. For over 35 years, since Israel's victory in the 1967 Six Day War, settlement activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza strip was supported by every Israeli government and were assumed by most (opponents and supporters alike) to be permanent features on the landscape of the Land of Israel. The Disengagement carried out by Ariel Sharon, the 'Grandfather of the Settlements' dramatically changed that reality and opened to door for further unilateral Israeli withdrawals in lieu of effective negotiations. Click here for more...

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Israeli Communities in the Territories

A hot button issue since 1967, the debate surrounding the settlements after the Disengagement of last summer has taken on a very different tone. For thirty years, the settlements were considered sacrosanct by many and it was thought that all the settlements would be a permanent presence on the hills of Judea and Samaria. Now, after the Disengagement and the removal of 25 settlements in Gaza and Northern Samaria, it is clear that the settlements are not as permanent as most previously believed. Click here for more...

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Democracy and Diversity in Israel

When the term 'democracy' comes to mind most people immediately think of voting and free elections. While elections are at the fore in any discussion of democracy, there are other issues that are just as crucial. One of these issues is minority rights. The most diverse countries with the highest degrees of minority rights in the world are all democracies. In the modern world, a democracy is judged on the rights of its minority population(s).

Israel, as the only true democracy in the Middle East, is at the forefront of minority rights. Israel's minorities, Muslims and Christians, Druze and Circassians and many others are all afforded more and stronger protections than their co-religionists in any other country in the region. Israel's Supreme Court regularly rules on the sides of Israel's minorities in cases of governmental responsibility, religious freedom and protection and many other cases. Click here for more...

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Demographic Issues

Demographic issues can be defined as those that affect (or have the potential to affect) the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Within this category are three major issues - Aliyah (Jewish immigration) to Israel; rights of the minority citizens of Israel; and the question of the Palestinians. The 'Demographic Question' has played a large role in the public discourse over the past number of years and has been used as one of the supporting arguments for the Disengagement and for future unilateral withdrawals. Many proponents of Disengagement argue that Israel must remove itself from areas heavily populated by Arabs to ensure the continued Jewish and democratic nature of Israeli society. Click here for more...

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Economy & Social Welfare

Over the past number of years, both Labor and Likud-led governments have practiced a moderate economic policy, gradually moving towards a free market economy. Privatization of state-owned businesses was common the 1990's and continued under the Likud governments of Ariel Sharon. Click here for more...

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Religion & State

In Israel, religion and state are intertwined. Due to the Jewish nature of the state, the official day of rest day Saturday (Shabbat) and national holidays are those of the Jewish calendar. In accordance with Jewish tradition, the law prohibits work on the Sabbath and Jewish festivals. However, political activists, shop owners and mall proprietors have challenged the laws by opening on the Jewish Sabbath. In some cases the government has issued fines, but this has not prevented an increasing number of leisure businesses from opening. Click here for more...

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