Israel mounted a major public relations and military offensive this week both to deny Palestinian charges that it was responsible for the Gaza beach explosion that killed eight civilians last Friday and to answer a barrage of Kassam rockets Hamas fired into southern Israel following the beach deaths.
As the Labor Party reaffirmed its intention to stay out of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new government, the chairman of the secular Shinui Party spoke of joining: and for the first time softened his demand that government handouts end for fervently Orthodox men who don't work.
"You have to do it gradually," Shinui leader Tommy Lapid told The Jewish Week. "We don't want to cause unnecessary suffering to large families. But people who are able-bodied men should go and work.
Despite his decisive victory Tuesday, Ariel Sharon still finds himself in a vise: caught between his desire not to form a right-wing government that would hamstring his ability to deal with American peace demands and an Israeli public convinced that the time is not ripe to pursue peace.
Couple that with the electorate's crippling blow to the Israeli left and the strong showing of the anti-religious Shinui Party, and this election could pave the way for changes in the country's social fabric.
With Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud Party seen cruising to victory in Tuesday's national election, political pundits speculated on how Sharon was going to form the unity government he prefers with the Labor Party, whose leader has vowed to remain in opposition.
In a last-ditch effort to block Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from being able to form a new government after the Jan. 28 election, Labor Party leaders pledged this week not to rejoin him in another unity government.
As Israelis buried their dead following back-to-back Palestinian suicide bombings Sunday in Tel Aviv that killed 22 bystanders (seven of them foreign workers) political campaign commercials began running on Israel TV Tuesday night and analysts wondered how the terror attack and new political scandals would impact the Jan. 28 national election.
When Natan Sharansky, the ex-Soviet refusenik turned hard-line Israeli cabinet minister, visited several local universities here last month, he brought a pointed message: Yasir Arafat, he told students at Columbia University and New York University, is an unrepentant ìdictatorî who is an ominous presence dooming peace and must be removed.
Charges that members of the Likud Partyís Central Committee sold their votes for cash and other favors in this month's primary (and to a lesser extent allegations of voting irregularities in the Labor Party primary) have rocked the Israeli electorate, with one poll showing that one-fifth of Israelis plan to change their vote because of it.
Yehudit Moch of Park Slope walked into St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village last week sporting a T-shirt embroidered with a large Star of David.
"You'd better close your jacket," said the receptionist, who was half-Jewish. "It's not safe to be wearing that on the streets of New York."