Mar 17, 2015 4:49 AM
Key issues in Israel's parliamentary election
The Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) Key campaign issues in Israel's March 17 parliamentary election:
Israel-U.S. relations: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long had cool ties with President Barack Obama but they reached a nadir with his speech to Congress this month, which was organized without the White House's prior knowledge and where Netanyahu argued against an emerging nuclear deal the U.S. is negotiating with Iran. Netanyahu's challengers say he has bungled the relationship with Israel's most important ally and vow to mend the rift.
Iran: Netanyahu has framed Iran's disputed nuclear program as a major strategic threat that only he is capable of confronting. He has lambasted world powers, including the United States, for forging what he has called a "bad deal" with Iran. His opponents charge that he has used the Iran threat to paper over issues closer to home, like the economy and the rising cost of living.
Palestinians: Some of Netanyahu's challengers have promised to push forward negotiations with the Palestinians, which have stalled for years as Netanyahu spearheaded construction in West Bank settlements. Netanyahu has staked out positions on the West Bank and east Jerusalem that are far less generous than those offered unsuccessfully by predecessors. While he has grudgingly accepted the concept of a Palestinian state in the past, he has recently said that the advances of Islamist groups in the Middle East make conceding territory "irrelevant." And in a dramatic last-minute appeal to hard-line voters on Monday, he pledged to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Israel has also fought two wars against Hamas in Gaza since 2012 under Netanyahu.
Economy: The rising cost of living has become a central issue for Israelis, who say they can't make ends meet and struggle to buy apartments amid skyrocketing housing prices. Netanyahu has not focused on the economy during the campaign while his opponents have pledged to address the growing concerns and narrow the gap between the rich and poor.