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Key issues in Israel election

Olmert aims to impose Israel's final borders by 2010 if a Hamas Palestinian Govt does not recognise Israel and disarm to allow peace talks.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2006 11:18 IST

WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS

Some call the vote a referendum on the plan of interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his centrist Kadima party to dismantle isolated Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as a way of ending conflict with the Palestinians.

Olmert aims to impose Israel's final borders by 2010 if a Hamas Palestinian government does not recognise Israel and disarm to allow peace talks.

Most Israelis back more pullouts following last year's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Settlers are bitterly opposed to giving up land they see as theirs by biblical birthright and are trying to rally voters around right-wing parties, such as the Likud.

Olmert has said uprooted settlers would be moved to major settlement blocs that Israel would keep.

Palestinians condemn Olmert's unilateral plan, saying it would not foster peace and that the retention of major settlement blocs would deny them a viable state.

HAMAS

No mainstream party advocates talking with Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel's destruction that won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January.

Olmert has said he would give Hamas a "reasonable" amount of time to reform and embrace interim peace agreements before he moves on his unilateral plans.

Not dealing with a Hamas government would probably suit many Israeli voters, disappointed with left-wing visions of peace as well as right-wing determination to keep all occupied land at any cost.

Hamas was behind nearly 60 suicide bombings during a Palestinian uprising that began in 2000, though it has largely observed a truce for more than a year.

IRAN

Many Israelis see Iran as the country's biggest security threat because of its nuclear programme.

Israel believes Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, though Tehran says the programme has only civilian ends.

Israel has not ruled out a military strike but says it prefers to see U.S.-led diplomatic pressure on Iran run its course.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has caled for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor to prevent Saddam Hussein from getting nuclear weapons. Israel is believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal.

ECONOMY

Labour party leader Amir Peretz has tried, without much success, to make fighting poverty and raising minimum wage levels the key themes of the election campaign.

Nevertheless, the issues have still featured during debates, with all major parties pledging to fight poverty.

Despite its high-tech economy and economic growth rate of 5.2 per cent last year, a fifth of Israelis live below a national poverty line.