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Israel's electoral campaign gathers pace

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Israel's electoral campaign gathers pace

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With Israel gearing itself up for a general election, political events both in and outside the country are influencing the campaign.

Since the Gaza ceasefire, the principal personalities have been able to concentrate more fully on their message. Right-wing opposition Likud party chief Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the favourites to become Israel’s next prime minister. He accuses the government of failing to destroy Hamas. But Labour’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak as well as the Kadima Party head and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are seeking to make the most of their roles during the conflict. While news of more rockets into Israel from Gaza could add pressure on candidates to look tough, a religious rift could also play a part in the election. Israel’s Minister for Religious Affairs has urged the country to break its diplomatic ties with the Vatican after Pope Benedict rehabilitated a Bishop known for denying the Holocaust.

The call by the ultra orthodox Shas politician could increase pressure on candidates to take a stand over the Pope’s decision to lift the excommunication of British-born Bishop Richard Williamson.

Last week, Williamson declared on Swedish TV that he did not believe 6 million Jews perished in Nazi gas chambers.