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    INTRODUCTION: Israel faces general elections on the 17th of May. The main political parties are?

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    INTRODUCTION: Israel faces general elections on the 17th of May. The main political parties are intensifying their campaigns in a domestic atmosphere threatening Israeli unity, at a time when strength is needed at international conference tables to consolidate Israel's future in the Middle East.

    SYNOPSIS: The campaigns have seen accusations and counter-accusations exchanged between the parties as to which is the most corrupt. The ruling Labour Party suffered its first blow when the housing Minister, Mr. Avraham Ofer, a leader member and friend of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, shot himself after allegations accusing him of corruption in land deals. Asher Yadlin, Governor designate of the Israel Central Bank, was sentenced to jail for corruption and tax evasion and Mr. Rabin himself had no immunity when it was revealed he and his wife had maintained foreign bank accounts without permission. He resigned as Labour Party leader to be replaced by Mr. Shimon Peres as acting Prime Minister. The Labour Party has dominated government for 30 years, but voices calling for change are stronger than ever.

    Not the least of these voices comes from the newly created Democratic Movement for Change, headed by soldier turned archeologist, Yigael Yadin. His party draws support from the middle classes, academic and professional circles. This, some observers feel, may cost him working class votes -- and to offset this he and other campaigners have taken to the streets, American-style, to drum up votes.

    The major Likud Opposition Party led by Menachem Begin is one of 23 parties contesting the elections, all clamouring for their own particular aspect of domestic change. It is this factor that some Israeli leaders feel could lead to a coalition government of two or more parties, which would present a less-than-unified stance at forthcoming attempts to find a solution to the problems of the Middle East.

    Acting Prime Minister Mr. Shimon Peres' Labour Party has been attempting to attract votes in areas traditionally under-represented in the past -- particularly among the young, women and oriental, or Sephardic, Jews. Israeli government and life are dominated by Ashkenazic, or northern European Jewry. The Labour Party is pledged not to form an alliance with the Likud Party should a coalition become necessary. If Labour combined with several small parties this could lead to instability and a call for new elections.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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