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A Campaign Primer: The Key Issues

June 16, 1992


In the last 2 1/2 years, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has increased the Jewish population of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by 30%, to nearly 120,000.

More housing is being built for many more Jewish immigrants expected to come, even though the rate of immigration from the former Soviet Union has dropped dramatically--from an average of about 12,000 a month in 1991 to about 5,000 a month so far this year. About 200,000 of these immigrants are eligible to vote in the elections.

Shamir's preoccupation with settling the territories has chilled relations with the United States. The Bush Administration wants construction of new housing to stop, saying it hinders peace efforts.

The Economy

The settlements are also affecting Israel's economy. The Shamir government has asked Washington to underwrite $2 billion in economic development loans each year for the next five years. The backing would make the loans cheaper and easier to obtain.

However, approval has been held up, primarily because of the bitter battle between the White House and Israel over Shamir's settlements policy. The failure to get the loan guarantees has not helped Israel's record unemployment, especially among immigrants. As a result, Shamir's government has been under fire.

Peace and Security

Shamir rejects the so-called land-for-peace formula in the territories as a way of achieving peace with the Palestinians. His challenger, Yitzhak Rabin, is willing to give up land--a position that pleases Washington and could free up more U.S. economic aid.

Although the Mideast peace talks are continuing, Rabin's Labor Party says the talks are at a stalemate because of Shamir's unwillingness to discuss territorial issues.

In fact, Shamir's belief--even hope--is that there will be so many settlers in the territories that it will be impossible for the areas to become a Palestinian state.

While unrest is nothing new in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, there has been an upsurge of violence between Arabs and settlers. This has put the issue of security in the campaign spotlight. Should Rabin win, it would be the first Labor government since 1977.

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