Campaigning in Israel’s elections has kicked off today, and it seems the country’s three main parties are putting practicalities over political dreams.
This time around, Kadima, Labour and Likud appear a little more reticent aboutpromising peace and are instead veering towards a contest of personalities as well as policy. Thus Kadima, the favourite to win the vote in three weeks time, is throwing the spotlight on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – the party’s founder who is lying in a coma and who for many Israelis is a national hero. Political Analyst Ayala Hasson: “It is very emotional, even a little bit sad. You watch those adverts, you see those features and you feel sad like you miss Sharon and you want to be part of his legacy.” Ehud Olmert has cast himself as the loyal executor of the premier’sdisengagement policies. on Tuesday, he made clear his party would drastically reduce spending on disputed Jewish settlements. “It’s no secret, in the coming years we won’t invest the same sums spent previously on construction and infrastructure in areas over the Green Line.” Kadima has begun to reveal what it intends to do about settlements in the West Bank. It is pledging to abandon about 20 outposts outside the controversial security barrier it erected, keeping hold of some around East Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah. Pragmatism seems to be the order of the day for Labour too – led by Amir Peretz. The centre-left party that in 1993 signed pioneering accords with the Palestinians has left its “Land for Peace” slogan aside, opting for the more modest “Fighting terror, Defeating poverty”. And finally, Likud which is presenting former premier Binyamin Netanyahu as its candidate, has shifted emphasis away from dreams of a “Greater Israel”. It isinstead taking a more aggressive line, directly attacking Kadima candidate and acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.