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Israel is entering a new era in its relationship with its Middle Eastern neighbors and the international community The forces shaping these new relationships are far more significant then the often-overstated ideological differences between the two major political blocs in Israeli politics the center-left Labor and the right-wing Likud One factor that transcends domestic Israeli politics is the role Israel plays in the post-Cold War international system dominated by the United States which treats Israel as its key ally in a region seen as crucial for American interests Yet changes within Israel itself among the Palestinians and elsewhere in the Middle East have also placed the Israelis at a crossroad in the development of their foreign policy goals and the options available to them Breger 1 Due in part to an electoral system based on proportional representation Israeli foreign policy is driven more by public opinion than is the foreign policy of many countries In addition unlike the US with its strong sense of security made possible by wide oceans and friendly neighbors the Israeli public never enjoyed the luxury of placing foreign policy issues low on its scale of political concerns As a result public opinion can be a decisive factor in foreign policy options available to the government At the same time it would be a mistake to put forward a naively pluralistic model of foreign policy in Israel in part due to the fact that Israeli public opinion like public opinion elsewhere is subject to manipulation by those in power The overriding sentiment among the Israeli public regarding its foreign relations is that of fear While the actual threat to Israels survival posed by its Arab neighbors has been and continues to be exaggerated there is no question that there have indeed been powerful forces in the Middle East which have sought the destruction of the Jewish state In addition there has always been an assumption in Israel that
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