AxisMundi Jerusalem

Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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A yawning gap

February 8, 2009

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With just two days to go before Israel’s general election, opinion polls show more than a quarter of the electorate is still undecided.

Call it the yawning gap in an election race that’s largely been one big snooze.

Israelis could be forgiven for failing to be energised by a lacklustre campaign waged by familiar faces and interrupted by a 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip. Political positions are well-known and well-entrenched.

Big campaign rallies have become a tiresome thing of the past in a country that has held five national elections in the past 10 years. But the leading candidates have been hitting the campaign trail harder in recent days.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the ruling, centrist Kadima party, played DJ during a visit to a dance club in Tel Aviv.

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Front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud toured Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, a bastion of support for his party.

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The faces are so familiar that even a negative ad about a political rival uses his nickname.

“Only a vote for Tzipi will beat Bibi,” read one Kadima advertisement, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

Actually, Bibi has been voicing concern that a vote for his former aide, Avigdor “Evet” Lieberman, leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, will siphon off Likud support and enable Kadima to squeak past to a slim victory.

One Likud ad pictures Netanyahu — prime minister from 1996 to 1999 — flanked by another familiar name — Begin. That’s Benny Begin, son of the late Israeli leader, Menachem Begin.

It’s all been the antithesis of Barack Obama’s “change we can believe in” rallying cry.

One Israeli commentator summed it up this way, when he wrote that Israelis simply don’t like their leaders .

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