This year's election in Israel brought no change and clearly shows that Israel remains divided and cannot make up its mind about basic issues, said a visiting professor from Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"Israel is a country with enormous economic and military problems, a country that cannot solve its problems," Ira Sharkansky said. "The problems are too profound, but the people are intensely committed to its survival."Sharkansky, a political science professor, spoke Thursday as part of Brigham Young University's Mideast Week about the formation of the new Israeli government and its implications for Israeli policy.
The 120 seats in the Knesset have been spread among a number of parties since the "parties took contrasting opinions," he said.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is now in the process of setting up the new government, but Sharkansky said, "The latest news is enough to make you want to declare pneumonia or stay in bed."
Sharkansky said the country's Labor Party would not accept the offer for the important position in government. He believes that may be because of a revolt going on in the party over rumblings that party leader Shimon Peres was leaving.
"Religious parties are telling him they will not consent to being the second option," he said. "Shamir is halfway through the time the law gives to put together the government, and his two major options seem to be telling him no."
The country's four religious parties have divided 18 seats among them, but one party is the orthodox National Religious Party, Sharkansky said. That party wants to occupy captured territory and not give it up and believes in the redemption of the Jewish people.
The three other religious parties are ultra-orthodox and have come to accept reluctantly the state of Israel. They are not concerned with the territories, he said.
"The personal problem of Shamir is that those close to him want important seats," he said. "Five leading politicians would like one of the three leading cabinet positions."
Sharkansky said all five men are members of the same political movement but are competitors.
Shamir could put together a government of his Likud Party, the four religious parties and the non-religious parties to the right of Likud, but he prefers a government that includes the Labor Party so it is not as vulnerable to the demands of the religious parties, Sharkansky said.
"The question remains, who will make up the new coalition? In the end Shamir may not be able to do it. Patience will prevail."
He said, however, that once a government is put together in Israel it tends to last.
"There is a great deal of juggling going on in Israel. The country must cope and find partial solutions to get problems off the agenda today even though they may come back."
Sharkansky is a full professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has served as a consultant to the state comptroller in the Israeli government and is the author of several books concerning political science and public policy.