Key issues in Israeli election early next year

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JERUSALEM (AP) – Key campaign issues in Israel’s parliamentary election, set for early next year:

* Israel-U.S. relations: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had a frosty relationship with President Barack Obama. If both are re-elected, relations could sour further over issues where the two disagree, primarily the Palestinians and Iran.

* Iran: Netanyahu and his government have pressed hard for stricter sanctions against Iran because of its suspect nuclear program, implying that Israel might be forced to attack Iranian nuclear sites to stop weapons development. His opponents charge that a unilateral Israeli attack would bring painful retaliation and would not significantly damage Iran’s program.

* Palestinians: Netanyahu has grudgingly accepted the concept of a Palestinian state but has rejected demands to halt settlement construction in the West Bank. His dovish opponents insist it is in Israel’s interest to withdraw from most of the West Bank and charge that Netanyahu is not prepared to make the necessary concessions.

* Arab world: Netanyahu insists that peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan must be preserved, but his opponents fault his dire warnings about Islamist parties that have won elections after “Arab Spring” revolts, worrying that they could be a self-fulfilling prophecy of hostility toward Israel.

* Economy: Israel’s economy has been kept notably stable through years of international turmoil, thanks to Netanyahu’s stance and that of the Bank of Israel. Netanyahu is taking credit for that, but critics complain that his free-market, privatization-oriented policies have led to growing income gaps, increased poverty and social injustice.

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