Israel's Political Formations

by Joel Beinin
published in MER129

Alignment: The dominant party in the Labor Zionist movement was the right social-democratic Mapai. In 1965, a group loyal to Mapai’s historic leader, David Ben-Gurion, split and formed Rafi -- a formation characterized by an “activist” military policy and a technocratic/statist outlook. This group included Shimon Peres, Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Navon. The same year the first Alignment, an electoral coalition and not a merger of forces, was formed between Mapai and Ahdut ha-Avoda, a kibbutz-based party with a tradition of military activism and close links to the military establishment (best represented by Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister under Golda Meir and author of the “Allon Plan” for the occupied territories). In 1968, Mapai, Ahdut ha- Avoda and Rafi united to form the Labor Party. The same year, the second Alignment was formed between the Labor Party and Mapam, a kibbutz-based party historically to the left of the Labor Party. This Alignment lasted until Mapam withdrew following the July 1984 elections.

Likud: In 1965, Menachem Begin’s romantic-populist Herut and the traditional capitalist Liberal Party united in an electoral bloc called Gahal. After the 1967 war, the Likud was formed with the addition of several smaller rightwing formations.

Tehiya: After the ratification of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, several Likud members opposed to returning the Sinai to Egypt left the Likud and formed Tehiya. They were later joined by Rafael Eitan, chief of staff of the Israeli army during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Religious Parties: The two historic blocs are the National Religious Party, which was always part of the Zionist movement, and Agudat Israel, which is anti-Zionist in principle, but in fact accepts the existence of the state of Israel. Both parties have suffered ethnic splits. In 1981, Sefardim left the NRP to form Tami; before the 1984 elections, Sefardim left Agudat Israel to form Shas. Gush Emunim supporters left the NRP to form Morasha.

The Left: The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality is a coalition between Rakah (the Communist Party of Israel) and several smaller Arab and Jewish components. The Progressive List for Peace was formed just before the election as a coalition between Jewish left elements of the former Sheli Party, Jewish activists in the Israeli Committee for Israeli-Arab Peace, and Arabs opposed to Rakah for a variety of reasons.

Left-of-Labor: This nebulous designation simply indicates greater willingness than has so far been expressed by the Labor Party to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination including (possibly) negotiating with the PLO. Two relatively new parties, the Citizens’ Rights Movement and Shinui, occupy this space on the political spectrum, although it is not clear that all of Shinui can be so characterized. The CRM has become the main electoral beneficiary of the Peace Now movement.

Personal Lists: Yahad (headed by former Likud Minister of Defense Ezer Weizman) and Ometz (headed by former Likud Minister of Finance Yigal Hurwitz) both joined the Labor Party in the post-election maneuvering. A third personal list, that of Lova Eliav, a left-of-Labor “dove,” failed to win a seat.

Kach: An openly racist and anti-democratic list headed by Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League.

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