ISRAEL'S election campaign has entered its final frantic two weeks, with a flood of political advertisements focusing on domestic socio-economic issues and the parties all but ignoring Israel's most intractable challenge - the negotiation of a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Polls show that while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retains a commanding lead as preferred prime minister, voters are deserting his Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu party list, formed with former foreign minister Avigor Lieberman, and flocking to the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party of rising political star Naftali Bennett.
Mr Bennett, a 40-year-old former high-tech company director, has emerged as a real force in this election and is likely to be given a senior portfolio in the next government if his party performs as well as expected.
He opposes the creation of a Palestinian state - a key platform of most of the major parties, including Mr Netanyahu's Likud - and instead pushes a plan to annex much of the West Bank.
With just two weeks to polling day, there is still a significant number of undecided voters - one television poll put it at 18 per cent, or 24 of the 120 Knesset seats - and analysts say there could yet be further major movement in the electorate.
A Jerusalem Post poll published on Friday predicted Likud-Beiteinu would win just 32 seats in the Knesset on January 22, way below the 42 seats currently held by the two parties and the 47 seats the joint ticket was forecast to win when the two parties merged.
And although a Channel 10 poll this week indicated the downward trend against the ruling coalition had stabilised, with support for Likud-Beiteinu at 35 seats, the Labor Party at 17 seats and Mr Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi on 14 seats, there was still deep concern within the Netanyahu campaign.
This week, the Prime Minister visited a remote settlement bloc in the West Bank in an effort to win back the support of right-wing voters. In a boost to Mr Netanyahu's campaign and a blow to Mr Bennett's, Settlers Council chairman Danny Dayan announced that he was resigning his post and intended to declare public support for the Prime Minister.
And former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, now the chairwoman of the Hatnua party, stated that her offer to form a "Netanyahu-blocking bloc" with the centrist Labor Party and Yesh Atid was still on the table.
Mr Bennett, speaking at a foreign policy debate on Tuesday, said the main concern was not the Palestinian issue as voters were instead focused on domestic issues such as the high cost of living.
''A Jewish spring is sweeping Israel these days. What you are seeing with Habayit Hayehudi is a dormant desire to restore Jewish values to Israel being uncovered, exploding,'' Mr Bennett said.
''I believe that if a Palestinian state would be founded just a few hundred metres from here … it would ensure the Hobbesian lifestyle of eternal strife and miserable life for the next 200 years between us and the Palestinians.''
In recent months, Israel has pushed forward with its plan to expand settlement construction in disputed territory beyond the 1967 borders. Mr Netanyahu this week dismissed concerns expressed by Australia, the United States, the European Union and the Palestinians over Israel's settlement construction.
''It's time for the rest of the world to wake up - the great challenge that we face, the great danger to the world, is not from Jews building in our ancestral capital in Jerusalem. It's from nuclear weapons in Iran … it's chemical weapons in Syria falling into the wrong hands. That's the danger we have to focus on.''
Other candidates at the debate, including Labor's Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid's Yaakov Peri, a former director of the security service Shabak, were deeply critical of Mr Netanyahu's failure to make any progress on the Palestinian issue, saying his stance had led to Israel's international isolation.
''Netanyahu himself has failed on many fronts, predominantly inside the country on social issues and economic issues … [and] that he hasn't presented for the last two years … any viable option for a peace process with the Palestinians, even though they may have rejected his offer,'' Mr Herzog said at the debate.
''To be on the initiating side, to be proactive, to amass the world behind us and to show to our citizens that we have tried our best and exhausted all opportunities for peace is an obligation and a duty for the leader of the country, and Netanyahu has failed at that.''
Most speakers highlighted Iran's nuclear program as the major foreign policy challenge facing Israel.
''A decision from Israeli leadership must be made very soon concerning the most crucial and demanding strategic problem that we have - the Iranian nuclear program,'' said Tzachi Hanegbi from the Likud-Beiteinu party list.
''Living under a nuclear Iran is a devastating option; initiating a confrontation with Iran is also a devastating option,'' he said.