This book aims to familiarize those interested in Israel's government with that country's origins; the way its political institutions, practices, and traditions have evolved; and the way the government works today. The book demonstrates that the country's political and social systems have been transformed from a nonliberal democratic-socialist orientation during its formative years to one based on territorial nationalism and conservative socioeconomic policies with a more liberal, individual-centered open society.
The first edition of this book, published in 1979, introduced the reader to a political system dominated by one party. Between its independence in 1948 and 1977, Israel was ruled by the Mapai (the Israel Workers' Party), which later became the Ma'arach (Labor Alignment). Little structural political change occurred during that period. The second edition of this book, published in 1983, added a new chapter, "The Begin Era," which traced the reasons for Labor's inability to regain its traditional political leadership in 1977 and 1981.
Since 1983, Israeli government and politics have undergone significant changes. Labor shared power with Likud in both 1984 and 1988 in wallto-wall coalitions. Israel withdrew from Lebanon and survived runaway three-digit inflation. It absorbed hundreds of thousands of new immigrants from the collapsed Soviet Union and from Ethiopia. Israel began peace negotiations with its Arab neighbors in Madrid during November 1991, and in September 1993 it decided to shift the responsibility for Arab residents of the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. At the end of October 1994 a peace treaty was signed with Jordan; other Arab and Muslim countries including Morocco, Tunisia, and the Gulf states became active in reconciliation with the Jewish state.
These events were possible as Labor resumed its historical role as the country's leading party. The transition was preceded by several institutional, legal, and normative changes in the political system during the second half of the 1980s and the early 1990s.
Updating the information included in the second edition of this book is only one objective of the third edition. Chapters from earlier editions have been rewritten to include new information and interpretations of topics previously covered. The present volume also includes new issues that were not