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BBC World Service

Ahead of a close election, Israel’s Netanyahu buys bread

David Gura and Austin Cross Mar 16, 2015
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BBC World Service

Ahead of a close election, Israel’s Netanyahu buys bread

David Gura and Austin Cross Mar 16, 2015
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have a little trouble getting to sleep tonight.

On the eve of the country’s elections, early reports show him trailing in the polls.

He’s got a long record as a political strongman. He’s touted his foreign-policy credentials for months. And in a last-minute attempt to woo conservative voters, the incumbent today withdrew support for a plan that would have created a separate Palestinian state.

But these Hail Mary attempts to sway the election seem to indicate how out of touch the PM may be. For Israelis, it’s all about the economy, stupid.

“You talk to Israelis privately and many of them will feel that they live from month-to-month on credit-card debt,” says Kevin Connolly, Middle East correspondent for BBC. “You buy something with a credit card in Europe, it’s a one-time transaction. Buy something with a credit card here [in Jerusalem] and you’ll be asked if you want to split the cost of that sweater or new pair of shoes into maybe 10 or 12 payments.”

Connolly says the cost of living is very high in Israel, causing many people to turn to credit just to put food on the table. While economic woes have always been a big political issue, it would seem that Netanyahu got that memo a bit late; he now appears to be changing the tone of his campaign.

“He released some television footage … He was going around one of the big markets in Jerusalem buying bread. The signal was that he gets it on the issues of the economy,” says Connolly.

Still, it’s hard to know what impact this shift will have until Israelis go to the polls tomorrow.

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