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The election campaign began in Israel when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni,
The election campaign began in Israel when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, elected the leader of the Kadima party last September, failed to form a government coalition supported by a majority of the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

It does not matter if the elections are scheduled one week earlier or later, because decisions on all key issues, such as talks with Palestine and Syria, have been put off for later. U.S. President George W. Bush's dream of encouraging Israelis and Palestinians to make peace has not materialized.

The U.S. will have a new president, and Israel will have a new parliament and prime minister. This could be a good time for promoting peace in the Middle East, but can the elections in Israel change the situation in the region?

Israel has had early parliamentary elections before. In fact, no parliament in Israel has worked to the end of the four-year term other than in the 1960s and partly the 1950s. The situation in the Israeli government is even more complicated.

However, changes in the Israeli power system do not always influence its domestic affairs or foreign relations, above all with its Arab neighbors, especially in the last few years. The upcoming elections may reinforce this trend, since changes in parliament are unlikely to change the overall situation in Israel.

The new government will retain power longer than its predecessors only if its decisions do not provoke acute disputes, for example, on the terms of peace agreements.

Ariel Sharon seems to be the only Israeli prime minister who managed to get what he wanted, a feat he achieved by maneuvering between the country's political groups. Livni could be another such leader, but she needs to win the elections and to try again to form a coalition government. Her first attempt failed because of the demands by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party (Sephardi Torah Guardians) to amend the budget.

But will the new balance of forces in parliament benefit Livni? According to the polls, Kadima is unlikely to surge far ahead of the Likud party, led by Benyamin Netanyahu, so it is unclear who will get the right to form the new government.

Furthermore, even if she succeeds, Livni will have a limited choice, while the Labor Party (Avoda), potentially her closest ally, with similar views on the peace process, will most likely lose quite a few seats in parliament.

This means that the future of peace talks with the Palestinians will again depend on small parties, who seem unable to curb their budgetary appetites. Besides this, a large number of them oppose bigger concessions at the talks, and would rather side with Netanyahu.

The leader of Likud, a major center-right political party, has begun his election campaign by expressing his views on the peace process in the Knesset.

Netanyahu has said that he wants peace with Palestine and Syria, but does not think the Golan Heights should be returned to Syrians, nor does he support returning the greater part of the West Bank to the Palestinians or conceding the division of Jerusalem.

His stance could effectively put an end to the current peace talks and bury the achievements of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni, who took part in the talks with the Palestinians. Discussions of settlement details have reached a point that Netanyahu has promised his electorate not to cross. Therefore, his victory would push the peace talks back several years.

Removing the issue of the Golan Heights from the agenda would halt talks with Syria, which have recently made progress for the first time in the last eight years.

On the other hand, Netanyahu has been known to change his stance. For example, he signed agreements with the Palestinians when he was the country's prime minister from 1996-1999. Thus, the peace talks would not necessarily be frozen if his party wins the elections. It is possible, however, that he may retrace Israel's steps and start again, eventually bringing the country to the same choice between marking time or opting for radical decisions and painful compromises. In the worst case scenario, the security situation may again worsen.

Israel has been going around in circles, with leaders who are ready for compromises but are unable to get parliamentary approval for their promises being then replaced by tough negotiators. However, practice, or, more often, the United States, usually prods Israel toward admitting the need for compromise.

Will the new Israeli leader break this vicious circle? No one knows, because predictions almost never come true in Israel.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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