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MAPAI (Mifleget Po'alei Eretz Israel—Workers party of Eretz Israel)

MAPAI (Mifleget Po'alei Eretz Israel—Workers party of Eretz Israel)

Socialist political party, created in 1930 under the impetus of David Ben-Gurion and Berl Katznelson from the merger of two groups, Ahdut ha-Avoda and ha-Poʿel ha-Tzaʿir.

Under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, MAPAI confirmed its reformist orientation by framing the policies that led to the creation of the State of Israel. The first Israeli Knesset elections in February 1949 resulted in MAPAI obtaining 46 seats out of 120, with the radical socialist party MAPAM winning 19. The most important political party in the State of Israel, MAPAI ran the Israeli government for twenty consecutive years. MAPAI supporters had a quasi-monopoly on principal Israeli institutions such as the Jewish Agency for Israel—in charge of immigration—a portion of the army, and Histadrut—the confederation of labor unions. However, because he despised Menachem Begin so deeply, David Ben-Gurion refused to share power with the Herut Party throughout his several terms of office. In December 1953 Ben-Gurion resigned from his post of prime minister to be replaced by Moshe Sharett, but increasing internal frictions led to the emergence of factions within MAPAI, and in February 1955 Ben-Gurion again took office, this time as defense minister. In elections the following June, MAPAI, weakened by internal quarrels, lost five seats in the Knesset, and it was not until November, after five months of haggling and attempts to build a coalition cabinet, that Ben-Gurion presented his new government.

In June 1956, Ben-Gurion appointed Golda Meir as foreign minister, replacing the "dovish" Sharett, and for the next nine years MAPAI reigned supreme, imposing its policies on the Jewish state and provoking both ideological and personal conflicts. In 1963 Ben-Gurion resigned as prime minister, and from MAPAI, after the Lavon Affair, a controversy that divided the party. In November 1965 MAPAI accepted the participation of the parliamentary oppositional bloc, GAHAL, which had won 26 seats in the government of Levi Eshkol, and in February 1966 Golda Meir was elected secretary general of MAPAI. The party underwent an internal crisis in 1967 with the surfacing of a reformist movement led by Abba Eban, Moshe Dayan, and Shimon Peres. After the War of 1967, this became the majority leaning. In 1968, MAPAI merged with the RAFI and Ahdut ha-Avoda Poʿalei Zion parties to create the Israeli Labor Party (ILP). MAPAI remained the most significant element in this alliance although the 1965 election was the last one in which MAPAI ran candidates under its own party name.

In February 1969 Golda Meir became prime minister, replacing Levi Eshkol. The Knesset elections of the following October resulted in the Labor Party–MAPAM alliance winning 56 seats. During the mandate of Meir, MAPAI was confronted by the crisis of the 1973 War, discrediting the entire party. The Knesset elections of December 1973 brought Labor 51 seats, but the Likud bloc grew stronger, winning 43 seats. In April, accused of a negligent defense policy, Meir and Moshe Dayan resigned from the government, yielding to the new Laborite generation cenetered on Generals Chaim Bar-Lev, Aharon Yariv, and Yitzhak Rabin, with Rabin replacing Meir as prime minister. MAPAI was weakened by dissension in the Labor Party prompted by power struggles and corruption scandals among several prominent leftist politicians. The elections of May 1977 won the Labor front only 32 seats, with the loss of 19 seats, mainly to the centrist bloc, Dash.


SEE ALSO Ahdut ha-Avodah; Begin, Manachem; Ben-Gurion, David; Dash; Dayan, Moshe; Eban, Abba; GAHAL Party; Herut Party; Histadrut; Israel Labor Party; MAPAM; Meir, Golda; Peres, Shimon; Rabin, Yitzhak; RAFI Party.

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