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Book Reviews Book Reviews III Policy Making in Israel: Routines for Simple Problems and Coping with the Complex, by Ira Sharkansky. Pittsburgh: University ofPittsburgh Press, 1997. 216 pp. $19.95. Ira Sharkansky is a prolific professor of political science at the Hebrew University. He has written extensively in the fields of public administration, public policy, political economy, and Israeli politics. In 1996 and 1997 alone, he published four books, including this one. The subjects range from Israel and Its Bible through Governing Jerusalem to an examination of Rituals of Conflict: Religion, Politics, and Public Policy. Earlier, Sharkansky undertook a comparative analysis of ancient and modem Israel (Ancient and Modern Israel: An Exploration ofPolitical Parallels [1991]). As an American Jew who made aliya many years ago, he owes no one apologies for his comments on Israeli politics and society, many of which are set forth in an impassive and no-nonsense fashion which may raise some eyebrows. Sharkansky often treats his subject with ironic humor which is likely to upset those committed to militancy or strongly ideological positions. This book is written in the style of an essay and is easily accessible to lay readers, including undergraduate students and others not familiar with either Israel or the field of policy analysis. Its focus is on four policy issues which are endemic in Israeli politics: immigration, peace with the Arabs, the future of Jerusalem, and the religious! secular schism among Israeli Jews. Sharkansky suggests that policy problems range from the simple to the complex. He divides this continuum into seven steps, ranging from such individual concerns as an application for public benefits, through unidimensional and multidimensional problems, followed by insoluble problems (some carrying "high threat"), ultimately reaching the level of "predicament or dilemma." Predicaments are defined as problems "with no attractive solutions," dilemmas as "a subset ofa predicament ... involv[ing] alternatives that are equally unpleasant" (p. 24). Immigration, the simplest of the policy problems examined here, is dealt with largely in routine fashion, most often by relatively low-level civil servants. The other three problems are more complex. The Arab-Israeli problem--or, in Sharkansky's view, bundle ofproblems-is of intermediate complexity. Until the 1970s, it appei:!red to be insoluble; since then, its complexity has subsided somewhat as "negotiations offer promising alternatives to violence," although the election of Binyamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister has stopped this trend, at least in the short term. The Jerusalem problell). is of intermediate complexity, that is to say, it is multi-dimensional but not insoluble, 112 SHOFAR Summer 1999 Vol. 17, No.4 although it involves serious dilemmas for both Israelis and Palestinians. Religioussecular relations constitute an insoluble problem in which neither side is able to win a decisive victory, but both sides include protagonists given to ritual and symbolic conflict with their opponents. The three more complex problems are characterized by "coping" behavior by highlevel officials, rather than by the routine conduct of low-level bureaucrats, according to Sharkansky, although he points out that "the real world appears as a mixture of the two rather than wholly as one or the other" (p. 34). Coping may take one of two forms: "engagement coping," which involves a relatively flexible approach including "efforts ... to salvage something from a difficult situation," pursuit of"the most important goals at the expense of lesser ones," and employing "ambiguity in order to reach working accords" (p. 127). By contrast, "avoidance coping" is characterized by "hopelessness, confusion, rigidity, distortion, disorganization, randomness, disorder, distress, depression, anxiety, submission, and lack of control," and "exhibits pointless emoting" (p. 35). Israeli and Palestinian leaders have engaged in both types of coping on the issue of Jerusalem, sometimes simultaneously, making it hard to tell which is predominant at any given time. However, Sharkansky argues that from 1967 until 1993, Israeli policy-makers generally employed engagement coping techniques, while Palestinian nationalists opted for avoidance coping. After 1993, however, the Palestinians made "a marked shift to engagement coping.... More than in the period before the [1993] accord was signed, it became difficult to judge which side was marked more by engagement, and which by avoidance coping" (p. 128). He concludes that "the city's recent history works...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 111-113
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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