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THE WORLD FROM...Jerusalem

Israelis focus on 'domestic' issues as election approaches, but outcome may be determined by global forces

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FOR a country that is always highly attentive - some might say oversensitive - to events abroad and their local impact, Israel has grown unusually self-absorbed in recent weeks.

Most immediately, the death of three Israeli soldiers in a Feb. 15 attack on an Israeli Army camp, presumably launched by Palestinian guerrillas, has shocked the country.

It was not only the gruesome manner of their deaths that sparked outrage across Israel. The way the attackers, armed only with axes, knives, and a pitchfork, chose a military target inside Israel indicated a new daring among Palestinian activists.

And the fact that the camp was poorly guarded, unlit, and unfenced, while a handful of raw recruits slept in their tents, smacked of complacent unpreparedness on the part of the Army.

But as the official investigation into the humiliating incident continues, broader events on the home front, most obviously the gathering campaign for June's parliamentary elections, have served to concentrate Israelis' attention on domestic issues.

This week both the ruling Likud Party and the Labor opposition are due to choose their candidates for prime minister, amidst increasingly vitriolic recriminations and the Byzantine maze of deals struck and coming unstuck that characterize Israeli politics.

Here, however, the rest of the world is never far away, and rare is the local issue that is not intimately linked, somehow or another, with the international scene.

Even while the two dinosaurs of Labor politics, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, square off for the last battle in their long rival careers, and as Foreign Minister David Levy and Housing Minister Ariel Sharon wrestle for the mantle of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, politicians are also beginning to focus on the elections.

It is then, in June, that events around the world, especially in the United States and Russia, could determine the outcome.

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