Israel Labor Party

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ISRAEL LABOR PARTY (Mifleget ha-Avodah ha-Yisra'elit), Israeli social-democratic party founded in January 1968 through a union between *Mapai, *Aḥdut ha-Avodah-Po'alei Zion (which had seceded from it in 1944), and *Rafi (which had seceded from it in 1965). Each of the three components of the new party maintained, at first, a considerable degree of internal cohesion, nominating representatives to the party's governing bodies in the agreed proportion of 57% for Mapai and 21.5% each for the other two.

The Israel Labor Party continued to advocate the traditional economic and social policies of the labor movement in Israel since the foundation of the State, which professed the ideals of egalitarianism and cooperation, a strong public sector in the economy, and substantial government involvement in economic affairs and welfare. Two strong pillars of the party continued to be the kibbutzim of *Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad and *Iḥud ha-Kevuẓot ve-ha-Kibbutzim, and the *Histadrut. However, like its predecessors, it did not object to private initiative, and was supported by many industrialists.

By the 1990s its ideological positions on economic and social issues had shifted, to a large extent, from social-democracy to social-liberalism. As a party that from the very start attracted numerous former idf career officers into its ranks, it was always very security minded, but on the issue of ways of dealing with the Arab-Israel conflict and the territories conquered in the course of the Six-Day War, until the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 the party was divided between doves and hawks; between those who believed in territorial compromise and those who sought functional solutions; and later on between those who favored establishing contacts with the plo and those who believed Israel should try and reach a solution with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. On these issues the party gradually moved to the left, both because its more hawkish elements left it for more rightist parties and because of changing circumstances. Even though its platform for the 1992 elections to the Thirteenth Knesset stated that it objected to talks with the plo, it accepted the reality of the Oslo Accords of September 1993 and the political process that followed, and finally came to support the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as long as such a state was established by agreement with Israel and was willing to live in peace with it.

Until the early 1990s the party's leaders were elected by the Central Committee, and the Knesset list was put together by the party leadership. However after its Fourth Conference, held in 1986, the party started to undergo a process of democratization, and since its Fifth Conference, held in 1991, its leadership and list for Knesset elections have been elected by means of primaries in which all the registered members of the Party participate. The Labor Party's chairmen since its establishment have been Levi *Eshkol (1968–69), Golda *Meir (1969–74), Yitzhak *Rabin (1974–77), Shimon *Peres (1977–92), Rabin (1992–95), Peres (1995–97), Ehud *Barak (1997–2001), Binyamin *Ben-Eliezer (2001–2), Amram Mitzna (2002–3), Peres (2003–5), Amir *Peretz (2005– ).

Since its establishment the Israel Labor Party has progressively lost strength. When the Labor Party was founded in 1968 it had 63 Knesset seats. In the elections to the Seventh to the Twelfth Knessets (1969–88) it ran in the framework of the Alignment with other parties and groups and received 56, 51, 32, 47, 44, and 39 seats, respectively. In the elections to the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Knessets (1992 and 1996) it ran independently, receiving 44 and 34 seats, respectively. In the Fifteenth Knesset (1999) it ran in a list called One Israel, with Gesher and Meimad, and received 26 seats, and in the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset (2003) it ran in a single list with Meimad and received 19 seats only.

The process of decline began in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, leading to Labor's first-ever electoral defeat in 1977. The original reasons for its weakened position were the feeling that it had been in power too long and had grown corrupt and the fact that the second generation of the Oriental community in Israel had turned against it. The process continued as Israeli society shifted to more right-wing and/or more liberal, and/or more religious positions, and with the economic collapse of the kibbutzim and the Histadrut. The direct elections for prime minister in 1996, 1999, and 2001, and the failure of a younger generation of leaders to take control of the Party, further weakened it.

The Labor Party led the governments in 1968–77, 1984–86, 1992–96, and 1999–2001. It also participated in governments led by the Likud in 1986–90 and 2001–2.

In 1969–94 all the secretaries general of the Histadrut were from the Labor Party – Yitzhak *Ben-Aharon (1969–73), Yeruḥam *Meshel (1973–84), Israel *Kessar (1984–92), and Ḥayyim Haberfeld (1992–94). In the Histadrut elections of 1994 Haim *Ramon ran against Haberfeld in an independent list and beat him. He handed over the leadership of the Histadrut to Amir *Peretz in 1995. The latter left the Israel Labor Party in 1999, returning in January 2005 and being elected party chairman in November. In the 2006 elections, Labor won 19 seats and joined Ehud *Olmert's coalition government.


A. Doron, Mifleget ha-Avodah ha-Yisra'elit (Toledot u-Be'ayot), (1972); S. Weiss, Anatomyah shel Nefilah: Mismakh Pnimi, (1977); Z. Dror, Mifleget ha-Avodah ha-Yisra'elit: Sippur ha-Toledot (1980); Y. Beilin, Banim be-Ẓel Avoteihem (1984); idem, Meḥiro shel Iḥud: Mifleget ha-Avodah ad Milḥemet Yom ha-Kippurim (1985); B Kornhandler, Mifleget ha-Avodah mi-Dominantiyyut le-Opoziẓyah (1992); S. Sheffer, Yeẓivut ve-Shinui ba-Dimui shel Mifleget ha-Avodahkefi she-Hu Mitbattei be-Maẓa'eha be-Ḥamesh Ma'arḥot Beḥirot 19731988 (1993); M. Bar'eli, Mi-Tenu'ah le-Manganon: Nitu'aḥ Hitnavvenutah shel Tenu'at ha-Avodah (1994); B. Caspit, Hitabbedut: Miflagah Mevateret al Shilton (1996); A. Bar, Primeris, Beḥirot Makdimot ve-Shitot Aḥerot (1996); R. Hazan, The Labor Party and the Peace Process: Positions, Disintegration, Amid Political Cohesion (1998). A. Diskin, The Last Days in Israel: Understanding the New Israeli Democracy (2003).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]

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Israel Labor Party

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Israel Labor Party