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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 9:57 am

Leading candidates in Israel's election

By The Associated Press

Leading candidates in Israel's election:

-Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to return to power in Tuesday's elections after nearly four years as prime minister. Netanyahu insists he has mobilized the international community against Iran's disputed nuclear program and brought economic stability despite global financial downturns. His opponents counter he has ignored the Palestinian conflict and estranged Israel from world powers, particularly its main ally, the U.S.

-Avigdor Lieberman, the former foreign minister and one of Israel's most divisive and ultranationalist politicians, is running on a joint list with Netanyahu's Likud. His Yisrael Beitenu party is expected to join the next government, but Lieberman's own future remains unclear. He stepped down as foreign minister late last year after he was indicted on charges of breach of trust and fraud. Lieberman draws many of his supporters from Israel's 1 million immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

-Shelly Yachimovich, a former broadcaster and leader of Israel's Labor Party, took over Labor in late 2011 at one of its lowest points. She revitalized the party, moving it away from its traditional platform of promoting peace with the Arabs and focusing almost entirely on economic and domestic issues. She has ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led coalition. Critics accuse her of ignoring Israel's diplomatic and security challenges and failing to present a viable alternative to the security-obsessed right.

-Naftali Bennett has been responsible for the surging popularity of the once-marginal religious Jewish Home party. Bennett rejects the idea of a Palestinian state and wants Israel to annex parts of the West Bank. Polls suggest that the high-tech entrepreneur and former military commando has a crossover appeal to secular Israelis as well.

-Yair Lapid leads the new Yesh Atid, or "There is a Future" party. Lapid left his job as anchor of a popular weekend news TV show to set up a party representing middle class needs. Lapid wants ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to serve in the military and enter the workforce, instead of getting subsidies to pursue religious studies.

-Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister, formed a new party, "Hatnua," or "the Movement," putting peacemaking with the Palestinians at the top of its agenda. Livni was the chief negotiator with the Palestinians under a previous government.