The Government and Politics of Israel

By Don Peretz; Gideon Doron | Go to book overview
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Political Culture

The characteristic nature and dynamics of Israeli society are outcomes of its history, the specific environmental constraints it encounters, and the challenges it must overcome. In itself, Israel's political system is not unique; its components are those of similar multiethnic immigrant societies that have one dominant ethnic or religious group. But the particular context in which Israel's Western-type democracy developed is distinctly its own.

An Immigrant Society

In October 1994, Israeli Minister of Labor Ora Namir suggested in a newspaper interview that some selective measures should be taken with regard to Jewish immigration from Russia. She argued that many Russian Jewish immigrants were unproductive. The old, the sick, and single mothers with dependent children were enjoying the benefits of the elaborate Israeli welfare system. Young productive Jews stayed behind or immigrated to the United States. Such conduct, she argued, was a practice of the young Russian Jews that was "unfair" to their elders and to economically strained Israel.

The public uproar over the minister's words spread across the entire political spectrum. How dare she propose implementation of discriminatory measures against Jews? How could she go against the very essence of the Zionist credo? How could she place major emphasis on the economic dimension of immigration rather than on its ideological or humanitarian aspects?

As it turned out, the data upon which the minister relied were simply inaccurate. Indeed, because it increases the country's Jewish population, immigration is the lifeblood of Israel. It is the raison d'être and the single most


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