Election in Israel: Why follow campaign trail if you can surf it

There is never a shortage of news about Israel, especially as Israelis prepare to vote for a prime minister. But thanks to the Internet, you can read — and listen to — the same news as Israelis do as they prepare to choose a leader. Today, a survey of some of the best Israeli sites to follow the election countdown.

First of all, just why are Israelis voting for a prime minister and not for the Knesset? The Israeli daily Ha'aretz presents a guide for the perplexed as part of its special online Election 2001 coverage in English; it's at www2.haaretz.co.il/special/elections2001-e. The newspaper also explains the 1992 reforms that gave Israelis the right to vote twice — once for a political party and then directly for the prime minister. Ha'aretz also has the latest news and analysis, and there are links to the some of the larger political parties and a primer for the election.

If you are looking for more news, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency provides wire stories for Jewish papers around the world, but you can have access to the coverage directly from the Web site at www.jta.org. And don't miss the Jerusalem Post at www.jpost.com/Elections. Globes, which looks at Israeli news from a business perspective, is at www.globes.co.il.

One of my favorite sites is the Green Screen News Library for Middle East and Israel, www.gsnonweb.com. This amazing site carries the latest stories from Reuters, Associated Press, the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz. But what makes it truly valuable is that it has a fully searchable archives of 85,000 articles dating back to January 1998.

With Feb. 6 moments away, the campaigning gets rougher. If you need a break, you can go to the Dry Bones Web site, http://info.jpost.com/2000/Supplements/DryBones/GALLERY.HTML. For more than 20 years, Yaakov Kirschen has been able to find a silver lining in the darkest of clouds with his political cartoons.

As for the candidates the themselves, the official Likud Web site shows a group of smiling young people and a portrait of party leader Ariel Sharon at www.likud.org.il. The site has a great deal of background and news but the content is mostly in Hebrew with some Russian and no English.

You can read some of Sharon's articles and speeches in English at www.freeman.org/m_online/ariela.htm. In a November speech he says, "United, I believe, we can win the battle for peace. But it must be a different peace, one with full recognition of the rights of the Jews in their one and only land: peace with security for generations and peace with a united Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people in the state of Israel forever."

The official Ehud Barak Web site has a photo of the candidate along with the headline "Don't Give Up on the Future" at www.barak2001.org.il This site is also in Hebrew with some Russian and no English. The Israeli Foreign Affairs site has a brief biography of Barak at www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH00fi0, and the Prime Minister's Office maintains a large English language site that includes an illustrated biography of Barak at www.pmo.gov.il/english/ts.exe?tsurl=0.32.

In a section titled "Barak's Plan for a Better Israel," there are position papers on everything from democracy in Israel to road Safety to peace and security. Barak writes: "We are determined to attain peace, taking into account the many dangers involved, to bring the one-hundred-year conflict to an end. We will only sign agreements that will ensure the security of the State of Israel. We will continue to fight the bitter war against terrorism with all our might, everywhere…Any agreement that we reach depends on guarding our safe borders and our ability to defend our residents and State."

And what about the footsteps that one of these two candidates will have to walk in? The Prime Ministers of Israel page has biographies of all 10 Israeli premiers from David Ben-Gurion up to Barak at www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp? MFAH00k60.