ISRAEL: Ben-Gurion against the Knesset

Article excerpt

ISRAEL

Ben-Gurion against the Knesset, by Giora Goldberg. London, UK and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2003. 323 pages. Bibl. to p. 328. Index to p. 338. $64.50.

Many books and articles were written about the mythological first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion. Giora Goldberg's book is unique in many ways. The two most important are the author's concentration on the relationship between Ben-Gurion and the Knesset, and his critical view of the legendary leader.

Goldberg mentions that he "deals with one of the six factors, which determine the status of the legislature - namely, the degree to which it enjoys the support of the chief executive" (p. 8). This objective is borrowed from an analytical framework suggested by Mezey.1 It seems that it is almost opposite to the traditional formal tendency to focus on the mechanisms by which executives mobilize support of legislatures. This deviation derives not only from Mezey's analysis, but also from the dominance of Ben-Gurion's party, Mapai, over the political system of Israel, and from BenGurion' dominance over Mapai.

In the first part of the book, Goldberg examines the establishment of the parliamentary institutions in Israel. In the second part, he depicts Ben-Gurion's "struggle against the Knesset's institutional power." In the third part, he surveys "the struggle against the Knesset members," while in the fourth part he analyzes "parliamentary style and conflicts with political rivals." In the final words of his conclusion, Goldberg quotes Derfler,2 who described the relationship between the executive and the legislature in France during Charles de Gaulle's term as a "republican monarchy." Goldberg states that "in the context of the relations between the Knesset and Ben-Gurion during the time he served as Prime Minister, this term is also appropriate for the State of Israel" (p. 322).

Goldberg is far from being a blind admirer of Ben-Gurion. But even those who do not share his apparent respect for other Israeli leaders, such as Menachem Begin of the right-wing Herut Party and Moshe Sneh of the Communist Party, would usually find his analysis accurate, intriguing, and challenging. …