Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Israel: The Israeli Labour Party: In the Shadow of the Likud

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Israel: The Israeli Labour Party: In the Shadow of the Likud

Article excerpt

The Israeli Labour Party: In the Shadow of the Likud, by Neill Lochery. Berkshire, U.K.: Ithaca Press, 1997. xx + 270 pages. Appends. to p. 322. Interviews to p. 327. Gloss. to p. 332. Bibl. to p. 345. Index to p. 355. L35.

Reviewed by Myron J. Aronoff

This book is a new flask into which much old wine has been poured. Unfortunately, the old wine is not always identified as such, and the mix of old and new may not be to everyone's taste. Neill Lochery seems uncertain of his readership. The first chapter, on the history and structure of the Labor Party prior to 1977, covers ground already well covered by others. This lack of originality is compounded by numerous errors. Mapai's main coalition partners were not "nonZionist religious parties" (p. 9), but the National Religious Party-a Zionist party. The Alignment was the name of the combined electoral list of Mapai and Achdut Ha'avoda in 1965, not Mapai (p. 10). Lochery claims that former Prime Minister Golda Meir was "officially cleared of incompetence by the Agranat Commission" (p. 18), but the Commission refused to rule on political responsibility.

Such errors (of which the above are a small sample) diminish the value of the book for specialists. Yet, the book deals with too many details for the general reader. For example, chapter two summarizes key issues that are in contention among scholarly experts on the Labor Party.1 This discussion, while excessive for the general reader, does not break new ground and is thus insufficient to advance scholarly discourse. Another problem for the specialist is Lochery's tendency to cite as his authority his interviewees while frequently ignoring the scholarly literature on the subject. In chapter three, Lochery's categorization of scholarly explanations for the decline of the Labor Party in four frameworks distorts the research of those on whose work he builds.2

What is most disturbing to this reviewer is that several main themes of Lochery's book recapitulate themes of previously published work which the author fails to cite. For example, his contention that Labor continued to act as a dominant party after its initial electoral defeat (p. 63) and that the Likud attempted to become the dominant party (p. 85) were clearly stated by Aronoff (1989): "Whereas Israel had been characterized by a dominant party system from the mid-1930s, when Labour achieved ascendancy in the Jewishcontrolled community in Palestine prior to independence, until its first electoral defeat in 1977, it became a competitive party system thereafter. Yet the Likud, which dominated the government coalitions from 1977 through 1984, acted as if it were a dominant party and self-consciously attempted to make its myths and rituals-its interpretation of reality (past and present)universally accepted."3 Although Aronoff's book is listed in his bibliography, Lochery does not cite it even once while recapitulating several themes which first appeared in it.

Lochery's characterization of the development of the Labor Party in different periods, presented in tables introducing chapters 5 through 10, is conceptually confused. To characterize Labor from 1948-1977 as a dominant party with power is redundant. …

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