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EDITIONS
 Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 17:34 GMT
Press frets as Likud looks set for victory
Israeli soldier being shown voting procedure
Israeli soldiers vote two days before election proper
With the Israeli general election just two days away, there is little doubt in the country's press that the Likud Party of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is heading for a convincing victory.

But that does not stop some leading dailies from trying to persuade the electorate to vote for an alternative, either by using forceful arguments or plain old sarcasm.

Nowhere is the sarcasm more blatant than in the leftist Ha'aretz, whose leading commentator Yoel Marcus tells Israelis: "If you're happy and you know it, vote Sharon."

"He's a cutie pie. He has a sense of humour. He radiates confidence. He communicates with outer space. He runs his government with a firm hand. He visits the wounded. He goes to weddings and funerals. A genuine King of Israel.

If you feel that after 700 Israelis have died and 1,600 have been injured, your life has improved immeasurably - then Sharon is your man

Ha'aretz

"If your quality of life and personal security have improved, go ahead and do it: Vote Sharon. For the sake of your children, who'll be killed as they safeguard outposts and settlements which have no reason to exist, politically or militarily."

"If you want a prime minister who talks about a Palestinian state but is slowly occupying it; if you want to know what happened to those painful concessions, of which all that remain are the pain of bereavement and the fear of the next attack; if you feel that after 700 Israelis have died and 1,600 have been injured, your life has improved immeasurably - then Sharon is your man."

Mr Marcus then gets serious, forecasting that the economy is set to deteriorate, the poor will get poorer, and unemployment will rise, together with taxes to pay for the ongoing war.

Distant hope

"Global ostracism, expressed in boycotts, denunciation and flourishing anti-Semitism, will become more widespread. But Sharon is brimming with self-confidence, convinced that he has an answer for everything. These problems are nothing for a man like him, who has even managed to tame Netanyahu. Who, if not Sharon, is cut out to lead this country?"

Jewish boy looks at election poster of Ariel Sharon
Sharon is tipped to win

But there is some hope he says. "Labour, if it gets a grip on itself and shapes up in the opposition, will return to power one day. Sharon's self-destruct mechanism never fails."

Labour's plight is the concern of another Ha'aretz commentator. Gideon Samet fears the party is facing "some kind of extinction".

"Why is the Labour Party failing so pathetically? The majority is ready for a change, but only if the Likud, the anti-movement party, leads it."

Only when Palestinians themselves, either with help or without, have opted for the path of open, accountable government can Israel's future ever be secured. This is what Sharansky understands and what Sharon evidently does not

Jerusalem Post

Mr Samet describes the current situation as "terrible", but goes on to say "the defeat of the Labour Party is also the defeat of the belief that it is at all possible to change the situation. This is an anxious, entrenching, fatalist and suicidal vote."

Praying for miracles

The conservative Jerusalem Post says the only factor worrying Likud is "complacency". It notes that Labour Party leader Amram Mitzna "prays for miracle at the Wailing Wall".

For the Post, the choice is clear: "Vote Sharansky", it urges in an editorial.

"If the names of only two parties were to appear on Tuesday's ballot, our choice would be clear. Despite its faults, which are both serious and unsettling, the Likud Party of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is infinitely preferable to a Labour Party led by Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna.

"Not too long ago, Israel's Labour Party was proud and dominant. Today it is neither. Labour clings ever tighter to the perilous notion that the only way Israel can make peace is to sue for it. Labour's journey to the periphery of Israeli politics mirrors its hypnotic obedience to folly."

The Post argues that "one man stands out above the rest. He is Natan Sharansky and his party, Yisrael B'Aliya. We support Sharansky not just because his stand against tyranny and for freedom helped unhinge the foundations of a totalitarian superpower.

"We are attracted to Sharansky, because we believe he is the only candidate who sees clearly what kind of state Israel can become and how to take us there."

A hurting and worn out society continues to wait for the mysterious Godot, for the morning after the next elections

Yedi'ot Aharonot

Sharansky believes in both economic and political freedom, not only for Israelis but Palestinians too, says the Post.

"Only when Palestinians themselves, either with help or without, have opted for the path of open, accountable government can Israel's future ever be secured. This is what Sharansky understands and what Sharon evidently does not."

Waiting for Godot

For Ya'el Gewirtz, writing in the top circulation, centrist Yedi'ot Aharonot, Israelis will still be "Waiting for Godot" on Wednesday.

"Israel is voting for a gray morning. Judging by the breakdown of votes in the polls, the day after will put us in the same dusty shop, not in a shining new supermarket."

"A hurting and worn out society continues to wait for the mysterious Godot, for the morning after the next elections."

Another Yediot columnist, Eytan Haber, sets out a number of possible coalition scenarios facing the country after the elections, in a piece headlined "Don't Waste Your Despair, You'll Need It".

He says that if Likud chooses to align solely with the other right-wing parties, Washington could well pull the plug on promised aid packages.

"Whichever option materialises, it will be a tough year in terms of security,economy, and politics."

Right-wing newspapers gave little coverage to the elections on Sunday, leading some observers to conclude they preferred to concentrate on other issues, assuming the result was a foregone conclusion.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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26 Jan 03 | Middle East
05 Nov 02 | Middle East
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