The Government and Politics of Israel

By Don Peretz; Gideon Doron | Go to book overview
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Political Parties and Ideologies

The Israeli party system is one of the most fractionalized among Western democracies. The system is constantly reshaping itself and seems always to be in a state of flux. Yet, the Israeli party system has exhibited remarkable stability. The principal political rivals of the 1930s were still competing sixty years later, with different names and new institutions, orientations, and personalities. In this chapter we explain the source of this apparent stability, the differences among the parties, and their place in the Israeli polity. We also address the question of why the Israeli party system of the 1990s has been transformed from one based on ideology and mass constituencies into an image-oriented system.

The Israeli multiparty system is part of the prestate political heritage, evolving from diverse ideological trends and interest groups within the Zionist movement. Until 1977, one party--Mapai (later Ma'arach [Alignment] and Labor)--dominated the system. Because of its large size and its location at the center of voters' preferences, Mapai could choose coalition partners from parties to its left or its right. Since 1977, political competition has occurred between two blocs, or camps--the left and the right.

The left camp controlled the government after the 1992 election. It consists of two principal elements. The first includes two secular Zionist parties, Labor and Meretz. The latter is a technical bloc composed of three parties: Ratz, Mapam, and Shinui. These three combined forces prior to the election and coordinated parliamentary activities while maintaining their separate organizations. The second element in the left camp consists of the Arab parties, Hadash (the New Communist List) and the Democratic Arab party.

The right camp is composed of secular and religious elements. The first group includes three nationalist parties: the Likud, which ruled between


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