Israel in Election Year 1984

Courtesy Reuters

Through the workings of a multitude of causes-external and internal, spiritual and material-Israel has survived, not without unease, for a considerable time. Problems abound in all spheres: Israel's position in the Middle East, its economic survival and the coexistence of the various discordant components of Israeli society. Yet, strange as it may seem, no effective force in Israel today feels the urgent need for radical change in policy or direction. On the contrary, one can sense a widespread suspicion that any change would be a change for the worse.

We have just passed the eleventh parliamentary election in our 36-year history. The inconclusive war in Lebanon has taken a heavy toll on Israel. Hundreds of soldiers were killed and thousands became invalids. The financial burden of the war is one of the important causes of the government deficit and the continuing rise of Israel's foreign debt, which has more than doubled in the seven years of Likud administration.

Curiously, the only Israeli who has drawn a far-reaching personal conclusion from the tragic miscarriage of Israeli plans in Lebanon and the deteriorating economic situation is Menachem Begin, prime minister from 1977 to his abrupt resignation in September 1983. All through his life he suffered from bouts of depression. Last summer he withdrew into his private apartment and disappeared from the public eye. Begin has never come forward to explain the reasons for his political demise to the people of Israel, whom he served as elected leader for six years, or to the party whose unchallenged head he had been since the foundation of the state.

The elections of July 23, 1984, were forced upon the government of Begin's successor, Yitzhak Shamir, a full year before the constitutional expiration of the Likud coalition's mandate in office. A small splinter party, representing predominantly Sephardi Jews, and two individual members of the legislature (Knesset) sided with the Labor opposition to cut away Shamir's parliamentary majority.

The Labor alignment emerged as the largest single party in the new Knesset, but

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