Israel Vote Draws Yawns From Middle East Neighbors

Hardline or Harder Line? It Hardly Matters to Arabs.

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By Reuters

Published January 21, 2013.
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The region also has more compelling worries than a seemingly predictable parliamentary poll, Israel’s first since Arab uprisings erupted two years ago, reshaping the Middle East.

The upheaval’s biggest scalp so far is Hosni Mubarak, who preserved Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel for 30 years.

An Islamist leader, Mohamed Mursi, is now in power, saying he will not scrap the pact. But videotapes that surfaced this month of speeches he made in 2010 as a Muslim Brotherhood leader have alarmed Israelis and others with their crude anti-Semitic remarks and calls for children to be taught to hate Israel.

Yet Israel’s election is hardly uppermost in the minds of Egyptians, who Al-Sayyid said were preoccupied with this week’s anniversary of the anti-Mubarak revolt, their own next election and economic difficulties exacerbated by political turmoil.

Syria’s devastating civil war and the ousting of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have largely overshadowed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite Israel’s brief war in November with Hamas Islamist militants in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist, and its more moderate Palestinian rivals led by President Mahmoud Abbas have renewed attempts to heal their feud since the Gaza conflict. Neither faction has high expectations from the Israeli election.

“Palestinians have no option except to unite against the Zionist enemy (Israel), whose extremism increases every day,” Osama Hamdan, the leader of Hamas in Lebanon, told reporters in Gaza on Sunday in a terse comment on the Israeli vote.

Netanyahu, playing on his security credentials, has tried to keep the focus on perceived external threats, especially Iran’s nuclear programme, while vowing to promote Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, both captured, along with the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war.


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