Monitor: International comment on the election campaign taking place in Israel

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THE CLOSER election day grows, the more examples there are of election gimmicks. How else can the massive transfer of funds that the finance ministry has no way of providing be explained? Or the official authorisation of the positioning of settlers' mobile homes at Givat Hadagan near Efrat? If this government believes that it will come into power again, why not wait until it can assure the public that these are considered decisions and not attempts to grab another political advantage? Or does the government believe that, before its demise, it is best to sow facts that will mine the path of the new government?

Haaretz, Israel

THE ELECTION is now a Netanyahu-Barak affair. Latest polls give Barak an edge but show him lacking the absolute majority needed to avoid a run- off in June. The same polls see Barak winning the run-off. He has promised to heal the religious and ethnic wounds plaguing Israeli society, reinvest in the economy, expedite peace and improve relations with the US by forming a coalition government of the left and center. Netanyahu's campaign has run ads featuring images of exploded buses and burned bodies in the streets to tell voters what they should expect under the `'soft'' leadership of Mr Barak. Some Netanyahu loyalists admit that such tactics are a sign of desperation and fear imminent defeat.

Los Angeles Times

(Yossi Melman)

IT SHOULD be recalled that neither of the past two elections represented a major turnaround in voting patterns. Both Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 and Netanyahu in 1996 won by the most slender of margins; the next prime minister most likely will, too. But the small majority is Barak's for the taking, as long as he keeps working for it right up to the very last minute. Failure to do so will not simply result in an electoral loss but will signal Israel's regression into a world of global isolation, national conflict and religious and ethnic sectarianism. The prize is too valuable to lose. It is time to vote for change.

Jerusalem Post (David Newman)