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Back to school for Israeli politicians

Next month Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, returns after its Passover break, with politicians facing growing domestic and foreign pressures.

The United States and United Kingdom are already pressuring Israeli decision-makers to press ahead with implementation of the so-called peace Road Map.

They want Israel to freeze settlement activity as soon as possible, in return for an end to Palestinian terrorism.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has already spoken of painful compromises that lie ahead.

However, hawkish Knesset Members including some in his own Likud Party will fight hard against any territorial concessions.

They say it’s unacceptable to talk of handing the Palestinians control of biblical sites from the Land of Israel.

But Sharon knows the opposition Labor Party will offer him a safety net in key votes if he pushes towards a peace deal.

Domestically, the Sharon government is facing economic unrest.

Led by the Histadrut labor federation, workers say they’re committed to fighting the economics-stringencies package, proposed by the Treasury and accepted by the cabinet.

Teachers, pensioners, mothers, large families and many others stand to lose out if the proposal is implemented.

The Treasury argues the poor will benefit in the long-term, but union leaders say that is unacceptable for those who live a hand-to-mouth existence.

Industrial unrest is likely to dog this government throughout the upcoming session of the Knesset.

The religious-secular divide will also come under close scrutiny as the secular Shinui party begins to introduce legislation that religious Jews say is discriminatory.

Shinui is calling for the legalization of secular marriages and burials and is demanding all Israelis serve in the armed forces.