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Mapai

MAPAI

MAPAI (Hebrew acronym for Mifleget Po'alei Erez Yisrael ), a social-democratic workers party that existed in 1930–68. The party was founded in 1930 through a union between *Aḥdut ha-Avodah and *Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir as "a Zionist Socialist party faithful to the ideal of national redemption and the ideal of socialism in the homeland." Among its founders were Berl *Katznelson, David *Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak *Ben-Zvi, and Yosef *Sprinzak. Mapai soon became the dominant party in the labor movement, and in the yishuv as a whole. It obtained 27 out of 71 seats in Asefat ha-Nivḥarim (the Elected Assembly of the yishuv) in 1931, and 165 out of 201 at the 1933 *Histadrut convention. At the 18th Zionist Congress in 1933, the labor delegation was the largest, numbering 138 out of 318 delegates, and four Mapai members – David Ben-Gurion, Eliezer *Kaplan, Moshe Shertok (*Sharett), and Berl *Locker – were elected to the ten-member Jewish Agency Executive, which Ben-Gurion chaired from 1935 to 1948. Mapai's approach to socialism was pragmatic rather than Marxist. Its aim was not so much the accrual of power by labor as a gradual advance, in Ben-Gurion's phrase, mi-ma'amad le-am ("from class to people"). It regarded labor as the central force in the nation, responsible for the achievement of national aims, and called for the unification of all the labor parties. Its main political rivals were the *General Zionists and the right-wing *Revisionists on the one hand, and the left-wing *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir on the other, and it established an historical alliance with the religious *Mizrachi and *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi and, later on, with the more moderate General Zionists. It was the leading member in the World Union (Ha-Iḥud ha-Olami) of *Po'alei Zion, and was a member of the Second (Socialist) International.

The party was divided over the Peel Commission's partition plan of 1937, but finally decided to accept the principle of partition. Later, it opted for the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine after the War – a position that was approved by the *Biltmore Conference in 1942. Mapai called for participation by Jewish military units in the British army to fight the Nazis in World War ii, combined with opposition to the restrictions of the 1939 White Paper on Jewish immigration and land settlement. It advocated self-defense through the *Haganah under the authority of the Jewish national institutions (Jewish Agency and Va'ad Le'ummi), and the use of physical resistance and even armed force to combat British measures against clandestine immigration, while opposing terrorist reprisals against individual Arabs and all-out rebellion against the Mandatory government.

A leftist group in Mapai, Si'ah Bet ("Faction b"), criticized the reformist tendencies of the majority, who held all the key positions. The struggle came to a head in 1942, when the Mapai convention prohibited factions within the party. As a result, Si'ah Bet broke away in 1944, supported by over half of the Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad, and formed the Tenu'ah le-Aḥdut ha-Avodah. Despite the split, Mapai retained its absolute majority in the Histadrut, though reduced from 69.3% in 1942 to 53.8% in 1944. It remained the strongest party in Asefat ha-Nivḥarim (63 delegates out of 171 in 1944), and retained a dominant position in the Jewish Agency Executive.

During the preparations for the establishment of the State, Mapai was allotted ten seats out of 37 in the National Council and four out of 13 in the National Administration, which became the Provisional State Council (legislature), and the Provisional Government respectively when the State of Israel was proclaimed. It won 46 out of 120 seats at the elections to the First Knesset in 1949, 45 in the elections to the Second Knesset in 1951, 40 in the elections to the Third Knesset in 1955, 47 in the elections to the Fourth Knesset in 1959, and 42 in the elections to the Fifth Knesset in 1961. It ran together with Aḥdut ha-Avodah–Poa'lei Zion in the elections to the Sixth Knesset in 1965 in the Alignment list, which won 45 seats. Mapai, and later the Alignment, had the support of two to five members of associated Arab minority lists.

It was the dominant force in all the Israeli governments until 1968, holding, among others, the portfolios of Prime Minister, Defense, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education, Agriculture, and Police. In the Jewish Agency, it held the chairmanship of the Executive and headed most of the central departments. In the Histadrut it maintained its absolute majority until 1965 and its representatives held leading positions in all its organs. Mapai nominees headed most of the local authorities. There was a Mapai mayor in Jerusalem in 1955–65, in Tel Aviv from 1959 to 1968, and in Haifa from 1951 to 1968.

Mapai was badly shaken by the *Lavon Affair that began as the Esek Bish in 1954. The affair finally led to a split in the party in 1965 when Ben-Gurion and a group of followers that included Moshe *Dayan and Shimon *Peres, broke away from Mapai and established a new party by the name of *Rafi. A year after the Six-Day War Mapai, Aḥdut ha-Avodah–Po'alei Zion, and Rafi became a single party called the *Israel Labor Party. In the institutions of the new party Mapai received 57% of the seats, while the other two received 21.5% each.

bibliography:

P.Y. Medding, Mapai in Israeli Political Organization and Government in a New Society (1972); Y. Shapiro, The Formative Years of the Israel Labour Party: The Organization of Power, 19191930 (1975); Y. Goldstein, Mifleget Po'alei Ereẓ Yisra'el (1975); idem, Ba-Derekh le-Hegemonya: MapaiHitgabbeshut Mediniy yutah (1980); A. Zimmerman, Ha-Vikku'ah betokh Mapai al Ra'ayon ha-Medinah ba-Shanim 19291946 (1979).

[Misha Louvish /

Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]

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