As Israelis weigh up their vote today, election posters fail to show what seems to be the new reality. Binjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have been trusted with the trappings of power, and they are joined on the billboards by Tzipi Livni from the other main party, Kadima. But coming up on the rails is another player, Avigdor Liebermann and his far-right Ysrael Beiteinu trying to capitalise on the nationalistic atmosphere surging through Israel.
“What is at stake is the future of the state of Israel – are we going to continue the peace process with the Palestinians and arrive at peace or go back to conflict with the Palestinians and forget about the peace process? Anybody who vote differently than Kadima is giving more power to the right wing party, to Netanyahu, which will put an end to the efforts to reach peace,” said Kadima MP Meir Sheetrit. Netanyahu has pledged to pursue peace talks with the Palestinians but he has also made it clear that territorial issues will not be on the table. “We face an anti-semitic fire that is seemingly directed at the Jews and the Jewish state, but if unopposed will spread and consume the entire world,” said Netanyahu. On the premise of security, the Gaza offensive was supported by most Israelis. But there remain huge differences over how the campaign was managed and whether it achieved its goals. Many have drawn parallels with the war against Hizbollah three years ago in Lebanon. The campaign then lasted more than a month, yet Hizbollah remains a potent force, as does Hamas in Gaza. Added to the uncertainty over the way the Gaza assault ended, Israelis find their country being accused around the world of creating a humanitarian disaster. It leaves Israel’s next prime minister with a mammoth task of repairing the damage to the country’s reputation abroad, and satisfying increasing popular calls for a tougher line on security.