Israel-The Government and Politics of Israel

By Glazer, Steven A. | The Middle East Journal, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Israel-The Government and Politics of Israel


Glazer, Steven A., The Middle East Journal


The Government and Politics of Israel, by Don Peretz and Gideon Doron. Boulder, CO and Oxford: Westview Press, 1997. 3rd ed. xii + 279 pages. Notes. to p. 281. Bibl. to p. 290. About the Book and Authors to p. 291. Index to p. 308. $65 cloth; $21 paper.

The Government and Politics of Israel, by Don Peretz, was first published in 1979, and was reviewed in this journal in the spring of 1980. A second edition, published in 1983, added an additional chapter devoted to "The Begin Era." The current book under review is a completely revised and updated edition. It is the work of the original author together with Gideon Doron of Tel Aviv University. Each of the previously published chapters has been extensively reorganized and rewritten, or at the very least updated to reflect developments of the last 13 years. In addition, there are three new chapters, "The Electoral System," "Second Transition of Power," and "Challenges of the Israeli Polity." The result is a superb and readable guide to the complex and often bewildering world of internal Israeli politics.

Of particular value is chapter 4, which examines the electoral system. The text provides a clear explanation of the origins and workings of the proportional representation system, as well as details on the evolving internal selection process for choosing lists within the Labor and Likud parties. Readers will also appreciate the discussion of party financing, mechanics of voting lists and elections, and changing party loyalties among voters. The authors note that efforts to reduce the number of parties elected to the Knesset, which date back to the 1950s, typically have run afoul of the need to secure coalition partners from precisely those small parties that would be adversely affected by such changes. Later in the text, they also note that the most far-reaching change to the electoral system to date-the 1992 law providing for an election for prime minister, divorced from the election for members of the Knesset-has thus far shown little evidence that minor parties have lost their bargaining power. They conclude that "the small parties of yesteryear have become larger and more powerful, and the two main parties-Labor and Likud-have lost their dominating position" (p. 274).

Chapter 8, somewhat misleadingly titled "Second Transition of Power," in fact analyzes the factors responsible for the first transition of power in 1977-when Likud for the first time in the history of independent Israel formed a coalition government-as well as those that led to the 1992 return of Labor to power. The authors also examine the come-from-behind victory of Likud in 1981, and the impact on Israeli politics of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Palestinian Intifada (uprising), and the 1991 Gulf War. …

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