by Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- When Israelis head to the polls on Jan. 22 to elect a new parliament, the economy is expected to be the main issue. The shift in focus to domestic issues means that the Israeli-Palestinian relations, which has been the dominated issue for the last 20 years, has fallen out of focus.
"It's (the Palestinian issue) not completely out of the agenda but at the moment there is a sense that nothing can be done about it, a sense of frustration and a sense that maybe (it's) better not to talk about," Professor Itzhak Galnoor, of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Xinhua on Thursday. "But the topic is there because of what happened on a daily basis in the south," Galnoor said, referring to the near daily clashes between Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel.
The focus on the situation in and around Gaza marks a significant change in the definition of what the Palestinian question means to Israelis. While in the past and especially during the 1990s and early 2000, the main issue was the negotiations for a permanent peace deal with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Fatah based in Ramallah.
However, with the second intifada or uprising from 2000 to 2005 with suicide bombings in major Israeli cities and the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in August 2005, Gaza, not the West Bank has come to be the focal point.
When Hamas in 2007 routed forces loyal to the PNA from Gaza, the situation changed further as there are two Palestinian authorities, Gaza ruled by Hamas and the West Bank under Fatah.
Galnoor said that the general question of peace with the Palestinian is dormant but not completely absent, and as the campaign progress he predicted there will be more and more attention given to the issue.
"First of all because the prime minister is going to talk a lot about Iran and once one talks about Iran there will be questions about foreign affairs and when one talks about foreign affairs the Palestinian issue will come up," he said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Galnoor noted that the shift towards a political agenda that is more focused on domestic issues about the economy and society isn' t completely unheard of in Israeli politics.
However, with economic and social issues being given more attention, it also means that the traditional division in Israeli politics where a party was defined as right-wing or left-wing based on their stand on the peace talks with the Palestinians has been blurred.
Shelly Yehimovich, the current leader of Rabin's Labor Party, has said that while she supports a two-state solution, she intends to campaign mainly on internal issues.
"But still I wouldn't dismiss the foreign affairs and security issue altogether, it will come back in the campaign as we progress, " Galnoor said.
Dr. Amal Jamal, of Tel Aviv University, said that the Palestinian issue is not an easy topic to talk about for any of the leading parties in Israel because they all know that it's not going to serve their electoral ambitions, but this doesn't mean that it won't come up.