Politics in Israel: The Second Generation

Politics in Israel: The Second Generation

Politics in Israel: The Second Generation

Politics in Israel: The Second Generation

Excerpt

A political system must be understood in terms of the people who live under it, their values and ideals, the resources at their disposal, the challenges that face the system, and the institutions developed to meet these challenges. Israel is a fascinating example of a complex system that has developed in a relatively short time (since the 1880s) into a dynamic country that has undertaken enormous commitments in the military, economic, and social fields. There seems to be never a dull moment, with Israel capturing an inordinately large share of the world's attention.

Political scientists who compare political systems find difficulty in fitting Israel into their schema. Discussing political parties, Sartori finds the extended dominance of Mapai exceptional; Lijphart, in his study of relations between major ethnic, religious, and language groups, leaves Israel outside his framework because of its uniqueness; when studying the relations between the military and civilian sectors, or the success in curbing runaway inflation without causing large-scale unemployment or political and social upheaval, Israel is often regarded as special; and discussions of political modernization point to Israel as falling outside many general patterns.

In many senses Israel is unique. Merely by its membership in the exclusive club of democratic nations (in which parties compete for power in free elections), Israel is in a special category. This club has shrunk continually since the Second World War until today only a couple of dozen countries in the world meet the criteria of democracy. Moreover, the defense burden on Israel is unparalleled in other countries, democratic or not. Other countries have large immigrant populations, but proportionate to its size none has absorbed so many immigrants in so short a time as has Israel.

Yet in other senses Israel's political and social experiences are similar to those of other countries. The scarcity of local resources has meant continual searching for foreign sources of import capital, and importing this capital has given the central authorities great sway not only over the economy of the country but over its politics as well. The large numbers of immigrants have facilitated the development of machine politics. Politics tends to be party politics, and party politics tends to be hierarchical. Lacking a majority of one party . . .

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