Israel under Rabin
Israel under Rabin
The Israeli election of 1992, which restored the Labor party to power, was the second major watershed election in Israeli history. The first, in 1977, had brought the Likud party to power, ending a period of twenty-nine years of Labor's rule. Likud controlled the government for the next fifteen years, first under Menachem Begin and then under Yitzhak Shamir (with the exception of the period 1984-1986, when Labor, then led by Shimon Peres, headed a national unity government). The Likud, during its years in power, made a number of major changes in Israeli politics and society. In the area of domestic politics, Likud cultivated the Sephardim (Israelis of Middle Eastern, North African, and Asian ancestry) and elevated their status in Israeli society, a political move that helped ensure the success of Likud in Israeli elections until 1992 (see Appendix i). In addition, Likud began to free the Israeli economy from many of the restrictions that had been imposed upon it by Labor, although the Likud economic policies were also to lead to a hyperinflation that was curbed only in 1985 during Labor's brief return to leadership of the Israeli government. Another significant change in Israeli society that resulted from the Likud's coming to power was the growth in influence of the religious parties. Needing the support of the latter to maintain their coalition, both Begin and Shamir were prepared to increase the influence of the Orthodox religious parties over the 80 percent of the Israeli population that were non-Orthodox. Thus El Al, Israel's national airline, was forbidden to fly on the Sabbath, avoidance of military service was made easier for religious women, and both autopsies and abortions were made more difficult to obtain. Only in the question of outlawing the conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis outside of Israel did Likud leaders demur, lest the support of Diaspora Jews for Israel be jeopardized.
The foreign policy record of the Likud was mixed. In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that removed the threat of attack by Israel's most powerful Arab neighbor. The 1982 invasion of Lebanon, with the avowed goals of not only the elimination of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) state within a . . .