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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israeli Election Unlikely to Bring Peace

JERUSALEM -- One thing seems certain after Israel holds an election Tuesday: No matter who wins, peacemaking with the Palestinians will remain on hold.

After five years of a Palestinian uprising, few Israeli Jews believe in a final peace deal and most think the time has come to hunker behind the fortified barrier Israel is building in the West Bank and wait for better days.

And since the Islamic militant group Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election in January, all mainstream political parties in Israel have ruled out talks unless it radically changes its ways.

Hamas, dedicated to Israel's destruction and "armed resistance against occupation," says negotiations with the Jewish state would be a waste of time.

Israeli interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promises to address this stalemate through dramatic unilateral steps if his centrist Kadima party takes the top spot in the coming vote, as opinion polls predict.

He calls it "consolidation": a plan to draw a permanent border between Israel and the West Bank by 2010 by evacuating isolated Jewish settlements while strengthening the bigger blocs that Israel has said it intends to keep in any peace treaty.

"Of all the candidates, I'm the only one who has placed a clear political move on the national agenda," Olmert was quoted by the newspaper Haaretz as saying last week.

"And anyone who calls [Tuesday's election] a referendum [on the consolidation plan] is right. That's what it is."

One-quarter of the 240,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank could be affected by the proposal, far more than the 8,500 removed from the Gaza Strip in Israel's pullout last year.

The Palestinians, of whom there are 2.4 million in the West Bank, say the plan will not only effectively annex Israeli-occupied territory but also cut the direct routes between their population centers. And this, they say, will put the last nail in the coffin of their hopes of establishing a viable and contiguous state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile Israeli right-wingers, such as former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party is running a distant third in pre-election surveys, say the proposal concedes too much to the Palestinians and rewards violence.

On the campaign stump, Netanyahu said a West Bank pullback would be "giving away something for nothing" and that Likud would never be able to join a Kadima-led coalition government predicated along those lines.

If Kadima gets the 35 or so seats that surveys predict in the 120-member parliament, Olmert will have to get to work to find governing partners.

Political analysts agree the center-left Labor Party, led by former trade union chief Amir Peretz, would be the top candidate for forming a coalition. Opinion polls predict it will win around 21 seats, still leaving Kadima short of a parliamentary majority.

The gap could be filled by the left-wing Meretz party and several ultra-Orthodox Jewish factions, whose main political focus has often been the securing of government funds for their religious institutions rather than territorial issues.