Faced with a serious scarcity of available land on its heavily populated coastal plain, the government of Israel is quietly moving ahead with plans to develop what critics are calling "fantasy" islands.
The move comes as the country is beset by terrorist attacks inside and outside the country, a desperate need for water and the worst economy since independence 54 years ago.
In the latest move in a project that has been studied for more than a decade, the cabinet last month appointed a six-member committee to explore its financial feasibility.
With polls showing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon leading by as much as 22 percent over rival Benjamin Netanyahu in this week's primary for Likud chairman, attention already began focusing on the Jan. 28 general election.
"If Sharon wins [the primary] by a great deal, he can pursue his own line," said Gabriel Ben-Dor, a political science professor at the University of Haifa. "But if it's close, he will have to compromise with Netanyahu and that would make life difficult for him" in the general election.
Simcha Asrasy is a dreamer who's making her dreams come true. At 26, the former Israeli army officer is in college now and plans to start her own business.
That's a long way from her childhood in Israel, when her family of Ethiopian immigrants lived in poverty and her parents divorced.
"When I was a child, I didn't have a dream," Asrasy admits.
Amram Mitzna, the dovish mayor of Haifa who was largely unknown nationally when he announced in August his candidacy for leadership of the Labor Party, sought to develop a united party after wresting control from the more hawkish former Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer in Tuesday's decisive primary.
He immediately announced plans to form a staff that included supporters of Ben-Eliezer, 66, and his other primary opponent, political veteran Haim Ramon, 52. And he offered Ben-Eliezer the No. 2 spot on the Labor Party ticket.
Maj. Aubrey Eban was to give a speech in 1950, and Fabian Schonfeld, a young rabbi who had moved recently to New York City from his native England, made sure he was near a radio.
Mr. Eban, still known by his rank in the wartime British army and his original first name, was Israel’s wunderkind, at 35 ambassador to the United Nations and to the United States.
The future of the once-dominant Labor Party as a major player in Israeli politics is at stake as party voters go to the polls Tuesday to select their candidate in January’s general election.
An internal Labor Party poll placed Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna ahead of his nearest challenger, former Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, by 18 percent. The third candidate in the race, veteran politician Haim Ramon, trailed Mitzna by 30 percent.