With Israeli elections just two months away, the party that is slated to win is moving further to the right. The trend is expected to have serious implications for the Middle East peace process.
Israel's right-wing Likud party has chosen top hawks to lead its list of parliamentary candidates for the February 10 elections. Polls show that the Likud has the best chance to form the next Israeli government. The party is headed by opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Today we have chosen a new leadership for Israel," Netanyahu told supporters. He said it is the best list of candidates any party could offer the country.
The Likud list could have a negative impact on Middle East peace talks because it includes outspoken supporters of Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and opponents of a Palestinian state.
Benny Begin, the son of Likud founder and the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, is number five on the list. He opposes further territorial concessions to the Palestinians.
"All these far-reaching concessions would lead nowhere. We are on a dead-end street, there is no possibility whatsoever of reaching a peace agreement with our neighbors in the foreseeable future," Begin said.
U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are based on the formula of trading land for peace. Therefore, the Israeli center and left said the Likud list is a disaster for the peace process.
"This is an ultra-rightist and extremist list," said Zehava Galon of the left-wing Meretz party. She told Israel Radio that a Likud government would "torpedo" any chance for a peace agreement.