3

The Party Map

ROOTS AND DEVELOPMENT, 1949-92

A number of features distinguish Israel's political system and party map from other democratic systems in the West. Some blame these features, at least in part, for the ills and evils of the Israeli system. Nonetheless, in some ways Israel is very much like other, more stable democracies. 64

In Israel, as in most of these countries, a system of proportional representation by and large prevails. The Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, is the elected body. Until 1996, and since February 2001, a clear-cut parliamentary system was in place. The Parliament was responsible for appointing the government and could dismiss it with a vote of no confidence. Ideological and social cleavages, taken together with the electoral system, produced, as in most Western countries, a multi-party system. 65 Until today no single party has ever won a majority of Knesset seats, so that governments have had to rely on coalitions made up of a number of parties. In most cases, the coalitions consisted of parties fairly close to one another ideologically, with the structure of the coalition determined to a large extent by the identity of the 'pivotal party', that is, the party occupying a 'median' position in parliament. 66

Israel's party system did in fact have unique features. The issues dividing the parties often differed from those on the agenda of most Western countries. Prominent among these issues were defence and foreign policy. 67 Moreover, the roots of most Israeli political parties can be traced back to movements founded decades before the establishment of the state. Some were set up abroad, mainly in Eastern and Central Europe, and many had branches and centers in Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora. Given the fact that most of these parties

-55-

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The Last Days in Israel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Basic Problems and Basic Objectives 5
  • 2 - The Constitutional Revolution and the Breakdown of Balances Between the Branches of Government 33
  • 3 - The Party Map 55
  • 4 - Days of Storm and Stress 79
  • 5 - Conclusion: Solutions in the Absence of a Solution 131
  • Appendices 141
  • Appendix I 143
  • Appendix II 146
  • Appendix III 148
  • Appendix IV 150
  • Appendix V 156
  • Appendix VI 163
  • Appendix VII 166
  • Appendix IX 171
  • Bibliography 177
  • Index 185
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