On Tuesday morning, the Israelis started casting their ballots to elect 120 members of the seventeenth Knesset. The voting comes amidst a clear statement from the acting Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, regarding another unilateral pullout without negotiating with the Palestinians, and further plans to expand West Bank settlement blocks.

The voting started in Israel at 7 a.m; 4.5 million Israelis have the right to vote while 70% are expected to practice this right in 8276 voting centers.

After the Israeli unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005, several settlement expansion plans in the West Bank emerged revealing Israel’s plans to expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank and around the occupied east Jerusalem.

Olmert, Kadima party, said that the elections are considered poll on a unilateral plan that aims to draw the Israeli borders and the lands Israel intend to annex in the West Bank without any negotiations over the future of the occupied east Jerusalem.   

Kadima party was formed by Ariel Sharon in November 2005; Olmert who was the second man the party, became the head of the party after Sharon suffered a stroke in January 4, 2006.

The Kadima party is expected, according to Israeli polls, to win 35 seats, the Labor parry is expected to win 20, while the Likud party is expected to win 15 seats.

If Kadima wins the elections, the party will most likely attempt to negotiate with other smaller parties in order to form a stable government that could survive until 2010.

Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party, refuses any coalition with Kadima, and considers any further withdrawal even from the isolated settlements as “surrendering the land to the Palestinians”.

Meanwhile, Olmert vowed that Israel will keep the large settlement blocks in the West Bank and to link Maali Adumim settlement block with east Jerusalem by annexing the Palestinian lands there which will block the geographical contiguity of the Palestinian territories and kill the chances of a viable Palestinian State.