Interest groups in Israel are both part of the ruling state apparatus and independent actors; they are often identical to competing political parties or their factions. The Histadrut (Federation of Labor Unions), for example, is considered by most students of Israeli politics to be the ultimate interest group because its goal is to protect its members through legislation and in other ways. The Histadrut, which is an important part of the ruling system, influences public policies in favor of its members both outside and within the political system; its secretary-general and senior officials are often MKs or leaders of Mapam, Likud, or the Labor party. Likewise, associations of farmers, industrialists, new immigrants, veterans, educators, invalids, and women are also represented in more than one party and thus affect policies from both within and without the formal boundaries of the political system.
Many small political parties represent particular interest groups and often play important roles in governing coalitions. In Israel, therefore, distinctions between interest groups and social movements often seem irrelevant. Because politics dominate social affairs and access to politics is often perceived as easy and rewarding, in Israel interest groups--which tend to stay out of the political system in other countries--are tempted to become involved.
Jewish settlers of the first aliya came to Palestine during the 1880s with no professional knowledge of agriculture, the sector upon which they planned to base their national revival, and without working capital. Goodwill and high motivation were insufficient to "conquer the land." It was only with the assistance of Baron Edmund de Rothschild that Jewish settlement sur-