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Security High Ahead of Israeli Elections


Security forces in Israel are on high alert, as Israelis prepare to vote, Tuesday, in general elections to choose a new government. The latest polls show the front-running centrist Kadima Party losing some support, but remaining on track to win the most seats.

Israeli police say they have received more than 70 alerts of possible attacks by Palestinian militants, including 16 alerts described as "focused warnings" - considered to be extremely serious. Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld says security forces have been mobilized across the country.

"Basically, what this means is that the Israeli police, on a national level since Sunday morning, will be focusing and concentrating on maintaining a high level of security both in cities and around cities," Rosenfeld says. "Different units of the police will be patrolling around public areas and checkpoints, maintaining security throughout the next couple of days, until after the elections."

Monday, police closed access to the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, in response to reported threats from both Palestinians and Jewish extremists seeking to cause disturbances at the site, which is holy to both the Jewish and Muslim faiths. Twenty two thousand officers will guard polling stations Tuesday.

Polls released Monday show support for the front-running centrist Kadima Party slipping. The latest figures show Kadima gaining 34 seats in the 120-seat Knesset - well ahead of its two main rivals, the Labor and Likud Parties, but down from the 44 seats it was projected to win, several weeks ago. Yitzhak Brudny, a professor of political science at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, says Kadima's front-runner status may have turned into a liability.

"Kadima kind of tried to show that the elections were over and that did not go over well with the voters," Brundy says. "So some of the voters said, well, if it is over maybe we should vote strategically, for various potential Kadima coalition partners rather than for Kadima itself. In state where the political system always ends up in a coalition government, strategic voting is very much part of the scenery."

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who took over the Kadima Party from the now-comatose Ariel Sharon after his stroke, says any government he heads will move quickly to submit a plan to draw Israel's final border with the Palestinians in the next four years. With the latest polling numbers showing support slipping away from his Kadima Party, it now appears that Mr. Olmert will have to work hard to win the support of other parties in the Knesset to accomplish his goal.

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