January 14, 2013 -Another Election Update Marc Schulman

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Israel Update
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

January 14, 2013 -Another Election Update, News From Syria and Egypt

The desultory Israeli political campaign continues...By all accounts, 2013 has been the most boring and utterly uninteresting campaign cycle in recent history- both in the United States and in Israel. I have never seen a campaign where the major issues are not really dealt with at all. Netanyahu has been floating towards what seems to be an assured victory on the slogan of "a strong leader for a future." Given that three out of four of Netanyahu's opponents on the left and center are woman, in a chauvinist Israel that line seems to be working well for him. I will write more about that story in a post-election article I plan to write. Meanwhile, with no debates, and no need to ever appear and detail their policies before anything but a very controlled crowd-(and even that rarely), Netanyahu is never forced to answer even the simplest questions on how he intends to confront the problems Israel faces. His incompetent opposition appears incapable of impacting him in any way.

This country faces many hard choices is the year ahead. Yet none of these issues are being discussed at all. One of the most amazing things is that these elections were called, ostensibly, because Netanyahu could not or did not want to try to pass a budget. Yesterday it became clear that Israel's budget deficit last year was significantly larger than expected. I listened today as radio correspondents tried to have a serious conversation with several of the candidates, and even with the Director General of the Finance Ministry. Not one of them gave what I consider even a half serious answer on how to deal with the budget crisis. By Israeli law, if a budget is not passed by March 31 there will have to be new elections. The government could delay that by another 100 days by passing another law. However, there are actually already people who believe that there will need to be a second election after the first- because of the inability to agree on a budget. I do not believe that, but coalition negotiations will be very difficult.

I could go on about each of the topics that are not being discussed. In the Likud's commercials, believe it or not, they pride themselves for having brought down the price of cell phones calls in the country. They would not dare touch the question of the price of food.

Finally, hundred are dying almost every day in Syria. There has been no discussion of what that means for us. The whole question of the Arab Spring/Winter has only been referred to indirectly - couched in sentences like: "You see the mess in the rest of the Middle East, here we are stable."

Talking about those neighboring areas. There were reports from a semi-reliable sources today that Assad and his family are actually living on a ship in the Mediterranean. Its not clear if that is true. Though if I were him, I certainly would be. In Egypt, the government is trying desperately to tie down a loan from the IMF. Interesting that many of the liberals in Egypt are opposing the loan bid. The Liberals have gone as far as to say that giving the MB government money is like giving money to terrorists.

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