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Question on a psychometric test: Tommy doesn't want to sit next to Eli; and Amram doesn't want to sit alongside Arik. Tommy wants to sit next to Amram provided the latter agrees to sit alongside Arik. Tommy wants to sit next to Arik, too, on condition Arik doesn't sit beside Eli. Arik wants to sit next to Tommy only if the latter agrees to sit beside Eli. Arik wants to sit alongside Amram, too, provided the latter changes his tune. But Amram refuses to do so. Arrange the class in a manner that will satisfy everyone.

The findings of the surveys that forecast the results of the upcoming Knesset elections herald a political labyrinth that is slated to deepen the administrative crisis in which the country finds itself and which has worsened ever since the implementation of the direct elections to the post of prime minister. As things stand now, the return to a single-ballot vote improves neither the administrative capabilities of the prime minister elect nor the stability of the government.

It is doubtful whether the situation will be significantly improved by the new version of the Basic Law on the Government that will take effect with the election of the 16th Knesset and that imposes a restriction on the ability of the Knesset to express no-confidence in the prime minister. Contrary to the norm till now, a Knesset faction will not be able to submit a motion of no-confidence in the government without first going to the president and naming an MK who can put together an alternative government and enjoy the support of at least 61 lawmakers.

This process ("constructive no-confidence") was included in the new version of the Basic Law so as to boost the chances of survival of the elected government; but the issue was eroded in the legislative process and in practice, it was determined that the presentation of an alternative government is not a move that has to coincide with the vote of no-confidence in the ruling government.

Instead, the lawmaker who is nominated to replace the prime minister and who appears to have a majority of at least 61 MKs on his side will have a period of 42 days to put a government together. If he fails, the Knesset will disband and elections will be held. This measure comes to restrain the inflation in no-confidence motions, but it does not efficiently guarantee the stability of the government.

In any event, the predicted results of the elections and the positions of the main parties herald a political and ideological stalemate on the principal existential issue - the future of the territories and the attitude toward the Palestinians. This is a stalemate that has been paralyzing the national ability to make decisions for 35 years and has led the country into the unprecedented crisis in which it has found itself over the past two years.

Responsibility for this falls, first and foremost, on the two main parties - Likud and Labor. Labor is posing as a left-wing party, despite the fact its positions in practice are not significantly different from those of the Likud. With the election of Labor leader Amram Mitzna, whose words appear to match his heart and whose views regarding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear to resemble those of Yossi Sarid and Yossi Beilin, his party is hesitating to stand behind him. And when it does, its senior members look like they're sucking on lemons.

In the Likud, the pretense is even more serious: Ariel Sharon was given almost two years to put into practice a policy that takes into account the positions (the declared ones, at least) of the Labor Party. In practice, he maneuvered Labor into a situation in which it was dragged behind him and agreed to whatever he did.

Now, too, he is speaking so, so highly of his desire for a government of national unity, after the elections; but in the same breath he is venomously attacking Labor's approach to the Palestinians and branding it with the violence and unrest that has befallen the country since September 2000.

What then is the significance of Sharon's willingness "to make painful concessions" if he makes do with a forceful response, unprecedented in its rigor, to the Palestinian terror, without accompanying it with a political initiative?

And just how trustworthy is his call for national unity if he is unwilling to consider the political viewpoint of the Labor leader when formulating his approach to the Palestinians?