Politics of Israel

Politics in Israel is dominated by Zionist parties. They traditionally fall into three camps, the first two being the largest: Labor Zionism (social democrat), Revisionist Zionism (conservative) and Religious Zionism. There are also several non-Zionist Orthodox religious parties, non-Zionist left-wing groups as well as non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Israeli Arab parties.

Political conditions

Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974, once joked that "in Israel, there are 3 million prime ministers".[1] The particular version of proportional representation used, in which the whole country is a single constituency, encourages the formation of a large number of political parties, many with very specialized platforms, and often advocating the tenets of particular interest-groups. The prevalent balance between the largest parties means that the smaller parties can have strong influence disproportionate to their size. Due to their ability to act as tie breakers, they often use this status to block legislation or promote their own agenda, even contrary to the manifesto of the larger party in office.

From the founding of Israel in 1948 until the election of May 1977, Israel was ruled by successive coalition governments led by the Labor Alignment (or Mapai prior to 1967). From 1967 to 1970, a national unity government included all of Israel's parties except for the two factions of the Communist Party of Israel. After the 1977 election, the Revisionist Zionist Likud bloc (then composed of Herut, the Liberals, and the smaller La'am Party) came to power, forming a coalition with the National Religious Party, Agudat Israel, and with others.

The 2013 Freedom in the World annual survey and report by U.S.-based Freedom House, which attempts to measure the degree of democracy and political freedom in every nation, ranked Israel as the Middle East and North Africa’s only free country.[2] In 2016 the Economist Intelligence Unit has rated Israel as "flawed democracy".[3]

Prime Ministers and governments since 1996

Netanyahu (1996–1999)

In those elections – the first direct election of a prime minister in Israeli history – Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu won by a narrow margin, having sharply criticized the government's peace policies for failing to protect Israeli security. Netanyahu subsequently formed a predominantly right-wing coalition government publicly committed to pursuing the Oslo Accords, but with an emphasis on security first and reciprocity. His coalition included the Likud party, allied with the Tzomet and Gesher parties in a single list; three religious parties (Shas, the National Religious Party, and the United Torah Judaism bloc); and two centrist parties, The Third Way and Yisrael BaAliyah. The latter was the first significant party formed expressly to represent the interests of Israel's new Russian immigrants. The Gesher party withdrew from the coalition in January 1998 upon the resignation of its leader, David Levy, from the position of Foreign Minister.

Barak (1999–2001)

Office of the President of Israel by David Shankbone
Office of the President of Israel in 2007.

On 27 May 1999, Ehud Barak from One Israel (an alliance of Labor, Meimad and Gesher) was elected Prime Minister, and formed a coalition with the Centre Party (a new party with centrist views, led by former generals Yitzhak Mordechai and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak), the left-wing Meretz, Yisrael BaAliyah, the religious Shas and the National Religious Party. The coalition was committed to continuing negotiations; however, during the two years of the government's existence, most parties left the coalition, leaving Barak with a minority government of the Labor and the center party alone. Barak was forced to call for early elections, the only prime ministerial elections not held alongside Knesset elections.

Sharon (2001–2006)

On 17 February 2001, elections resulted in a new "national unity" coalition government, led by Ariel Sharon of the Likud, and including the Labor Party. This government fell when Labor pulled out, and new elections were held 28 January 2003.

Based on the election results, Sharon was able to form a right-wing government consisting of the Likud, Shinui, the National Religious Party and the National Union. The coalition focused on improving Israeli security through fighting against terror, along with combating economic depression. However, when Sharon decided on his 2004 disengagement plan, which included evacuation of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories (particularly the Gaza Strip), the National Union and National Religious Party withdrew from the coalition. Sharon's attempt to add the Haredi United Torah Judaism to the coalition drove Shinui out, and forced Sharon to bring the Labor Party back into his coalition.

Since not all Likud Knesset members supported Sharon's disengagement plan, he still lacked a clear majority in the Knesset. Apparently calculating that his personal popularity was greater than that of the party, Sharon pulled out of the Likud on 21 November 2005 and formed his own new Kadima party. He was joined only days later by Shimon Peres, who pulled out of the Labor party to join Sharon in a bid for a new government. This represented a cataclysmic realignment in Israeli politics, with the former right and left joining in a new centrist party with strong support (unlike previous centrist parties in Israel, which lacked the popularity Kadima now seemed to enjoy).

Olmert (2006–2009)

On 4 January 2006 Prime Minister Sharon suffered a massive stroke and went into a coma, and subsequently died in 2014.[4] Designated Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took power, becoming interim Prime Minister 100 days after Sharon's incapacitation. He did not become full Prime Minister due to elections being held in March and a new government being formed.

Following the March 2006 elections, which left Kadima as the largest party in the Knesset, Olmert became prime minister. He included Labour, Shas and Gil in a 67-seat coalition. In November 2006, Yisrael Beiteinu (11 seats) also joined the government, but departed from the coalition in January 2008. Faced with internal opposition due to mounting corruption charges, Olmert announced that he would not seek reelection in the next elections held in February 2009. Tzipi Livni won the September 2008 Kadima leadership elections, but failed to form a new coalition government.

Netanyahu (2009–present)

On 31 March 2009 the Knesset approved the appointment of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister, despite Kadima having won slightly more votes than Netanyahu's Likud. Netanyahu's government took office the following day, 1 April 2009.

On 19 March 2013 Netanyahu was designated Prime Minister again after Likud Yisrael Beiteinu won the most seats in the January elections. The new coalition included the Yesh Atid, the Jewish Home and Hatnuah parties, and excluded ultra-Orthodox parties. Netanyahu achieved reelection to the national post on 18 March 2015, and subsequently formed a governing coalition with Likud at the forefront, which included the Jewish Home, Kulanu, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Political parties and elections

Compared to other countries, the number of parties contesting Knesset elections is relatively high considering the population size. This has resulted in a fragmented legislature where smaller parties have representation in the Knesset and no party has the 60+ seat majority needed to form a Government on its own.

This system also allows fringe parties which hold views outside of the mainstream political and public consensus to have representation in the Knesset. Examples of these are the Haredi religious parties, parties that represent the national religious or limited agenda parties such as Gil, which represented pensioners in the 2006 elections.

Party Votes % Seats +/–
Likud 985,408 23.40 30 +12
Zionist Union 786,313 18.67 24 +3a
Joint List 446,583 10.61 13 +2b
Yesh Atid 371,602 8.82 11 –8
Kulanu 315,360 7.49 10 New
The Jewish Home 283,910 6.74 8 –4
Shas 241,613 5.74 7 –4
Yisrael Beiteinu 214,906 5.10 6 –7
United Torah Judaism 210,143 4.99 6 –1
Meretz 165,529 3.93 5 –1
Yachad 125,158 2.97 0 New
Ale Yarok 47,180 1.12 0 0
Arab List 4,301 0.11 0 New
The Greens 2,992 0.07 0 0
We are all friends Na Nach 2,493 0.06 0 0
U'Bizchutan 1,802 0.04 0 New
Hope for Change 1,385 0.03 0 0
Pirate Party of Israel 895 0.02 0 0
Flower Party 823 0.02 0 New
Brit Olam 761 0.02 0 0
Or 502 0.01 0 0
Living with Dignity 423 0.01 0 0
Economy Party 337 0.01 0 0
Democratura 242 0.01 0 New
Social Leadership 223 0.01 0 0
Invalid/blank votes 43,854
Total 4,254,738 100 120
Registered voters/turnout 5,881,696 72.34
Source: CEC

Other political groups

Israeli politics are subject to unique circumstances and often defy simple classification in terms of the political spectrum. Groups are sometimes associated with the political left or right, especially in international circles, according to their stance on issues important to the Arab–Israeli conflict.

Political right

On the political right:

Political left

Graffiti Tel Aviv, Ha-Rav Yitskhak Yedidya Frenkel St - close up
The Peace Kids, a mural affiliated with the Israeli left in Tel Aviv depicting Palestinian Handala and Israeli Srulik embracing one another.

On the political left:

  • Peace Now supports territorial concessions in the West Bank and was critical of government's policy in withdrawing from Lebanon after the 1982–1986 war and the subsequent withdrawal from South Lebanon.
  • Geneva Initiative and The People's Voice (HaMifkad HaLeumi), two peace initiatives led by prominent Israeli and Palestinian public figures that surfaced in 2004. These initiatives were based on unofficial bilateral understandings between the two sides, and offer models for a permanent agreement.
  • HaHistadrut ("The Union"; short for "the General Union of the Workers in Israel"), an umbrella organization for many labor unions in Israel. In the past, was identified with the different forms of the Israel Labor party; nowadays, the chairman of the Histadrut is Offer Eyni. The former chairman Amir Peretz became head of the socialist One Nation party, which eventually merged into Labor in 2004, which Peretz led from November 2005 to June 2007.
  • Several radical left-wing organizations calling soldiers to refuse service in the West Bank and Gaza; the best known are Ometz LeSarev ("Courage to Refuse") and Yesh Gvul (There's a limit/border).
  • Ma'avak Sotzialisti (Socialist Struggle) campaigns against privatisation and the worsening conditions faced by workers and young people in Israel.

Left-leaning politics are traditionally supported by Israel's academic, cultural, and business elites, as well as its security establishment.[5][6]

Political centre

In the Political centre:

The political centre (represented in Knesset by Yesh Atid and Kulanu, and in the past represented by Kadima and Gil) combines the Israeli right's lack of confidence in the value of negotiations with the Palestinians and the Arab states with the assertion of the Israeli left that Israel should reduce the Israeli presence in the areas of the West Bank. As a result of that, the Political centre supports unilateral actions such as the Israeli West Bank barrier and Israel's unilateral disengagement plan alongside the continuation of militaristic actions (such as the Selective assassination policy) as a means of fighting against terrorism. Economically, the centre is liberal and supports Economic liberalism and has a capitalistic approach. Until recently, the Political centre in the Knesset was relatively small—it never won more than 15 seats on average and centre parties tended to disintegrate within less than two terms (for example: Democratic Movement for Change, the Centre Party and Shinui). Other centre parties split up into factions which joined one or both of the two major parties, like Yachad (Ezer Weizman's party, which merged into the Alignment in 1987), Telem (Moshe Dayan's party, which eventually split up between the Alignment party and Likud), Independent Liberals (also merged into the Alignment) and the General Zionists (which together with Herut created Gahal, the forerunner of Likud).

Also parties which do not identify themselves as political right or political left are considered to be centre parties. For example: The Greens which focuses on environmental subjects and up until today has not been able to enter the Knesset.

Interest groups

  • The agriculture lobby, which seek to receive subsidies and tax relief on water.
  • The lobby for promoting the status of women, a feminist group which co-operates with the Knesset.
  • The lobby for the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied on his own government and leaked national secrets to Israel
  • Or Yarok ("Green Light"): an organization devoted to reducing road accidents in Israel through education, enforcement, improvement of infrastructure and the establishment of a national task force to research the problem and formulate a long-term plan to reduce car accidents.


  • Notable rabbinic figures have considerable influence on several Israeli parties and politicians, notably Shas and United Torah Judaism.
  • Edah HaChareidis, anti-zionist charedi organisation, that mostly demonstrates against secularization, mostly in Jerusalem
  • The Monitor Committee of Israeli Arabs: an Arab group, claiming to represent the interests of the Israeli Arab minority in Israel, tend to be separatists and hence perceived as hostile by the Jewish majority and have little influence in politics.

Political issues

Major issues in Israeli political life include:

See also


  1. ^ Latitude: A Libel Law and a Balancing Act, New York Times, 1 December 2011
  2. ^ US watchdog: Israel is Mideast’s only 'free' state. Jpost. January 2013
  3. ^ solutions, EIU digital. "Democracy Index 2016 - The Economist Intelligence Unit". www.eiu.com. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  4. ^ "Ariel Sharon, former Israeli Prime Minister, dead at 85". CNN. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  5. ^ AP Analysis: In Fractured Israel, All Electoral Bets Are Off
  6. ^ Israeli Challenger Herzog a Determined Underdog

External links

Anarchism in Israel

Anarchism has been an undercurrent in the politics of Palestine and Israel for over a century.

Basic Laws of Israel

The Basic Laws of Israel (Hebrew: חוקי היסוד‎, translit. χuke ha-yesod) are the constitutional laws of the State of Israel, and can only be changed by a supermajority vote in the Knesset (with varying requirements for different Basic Laws and sections). Many of these laws are based on the individual liberties that were outlined in the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The Basic Laws deal with the formation and role of the principal institutions of the state, and with the relations between the state's authorities. They also protect the country's civil rights, although some of these rights were earlier protected at common law by the Supreme Court of Israel. The Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty enjoys super-legal status, giving the Supreme Court the authority to disqualify any law contradicting it, as well as protection from Emergency Regulations.The Basic Laws were intended to be draft chapters of the future Israeli constitution, postponed since 1950; they act as a de facto constitution until their future incorporation into a formal, unitary, written constitution.

Israel as of 2018 functions according to an uncodified constitution consisting of both material constitutional law (based upon cases and precedents), common law, and the provisions of these formal statutes.

Golan Heights Law

The Golan Heights Law is the Israeli law which applies Israel's government and laws to the Golan Heights. It was ratified by the Knesset by a vote of 63―21, on December 14, 1981. Although the law did not use the term, it was considered by the international community and the Israeli opposition as Annexation of the Golan Heights.The law was passed half a year after the peace treaty with Egypt which included Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.

In February 2018, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu stated that "the Golan Heights will remain Israel's forever", after his political rival Yair Lapid called on the international community to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights two months earlier.

Gush Shalom

Gush Shalom (Hebrew: גוש שלום, lit. The Peace Bloc [Coalition]) is an Israeli peace activism group founded and led by former Irgun and Knesset member and journalist Uri Avnery in 1993. The left-wing organization has been involved in several Israeli controversies, such as sending a "Relief Convoy to Gaza" while it is under Hamas administration, and the mainstream Israeli media has described it, on occasion, as "radical" and "extreme". The American Friends Service Committee has described the group as "one of Israel's most influential peace organizations".

Halachic state

Halachic state (Hebrew: מדינת הלכה‎, Medinat ha-Halakha) is the idea of a Jewish state governed by Halakha, Jewish religious law.

Israel and state-sponsored terrorism

The State of Israel has been accused of being a state-sponsor of terrorism. Several sovereign countries have officially alleged that Israel is a proponent of state-sponsored terrorism, including Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Israeli Civil Administration

The Civil Administration (Hebrew: המנהל האזרחי‎, ha-Minhal ha-ʿEzraḥi; Arabic: الإدارة المدنية الإسرائيلية‎) is the Israeli governing body that operates in the West Bank. It was established by the government of Israel in 1981, in order to carry out practical bureaucratic functions within the territories captured by Israel in 1967. While formally separate, it was subordinate to the Israeli military and the Shin Bet.The Civil Administration is a part of a larger entity known as Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is a unit in the Defense Ministry of Israel. Its functions have largely been taken over by the Palestinian National Authority in 1994, however it still continues a limited operation to manage Palestinian population in the Area C of the West Bank and coordination with the Palestinian government. After 2002, the distinction set forth in the Oslo Accords restricting Israeli military operations in area A was de facto terminated.

Israeli order of precedence

The Israeli Ceremonial Protocol does not define an order of precedence. It does define, however, the group of officials that are to attend ceremonial events (Hebrew: Segel Aleph, סגל א'). This group consists of:

The President of Israel (נשיא מדינת ישראל)

The Prime Minister of Israel (ראש ממשלת ישראל)

The Speaker of the Knesset (יו"ר הכנסת)

The President of the Supreme Court of Israel (נשיא בית המשפט העליון)

The Chief Rabbis (הרבנים הראשיים לישראל)

Former Presidents of Israel (נשיאי המדינה בעבר)

Ministers of the Government

The Leader of the Opposition (יו"ר האופוזיציה)

Head of the Coalition (ראש הקואליציה)

Justices of the Supreme Court of Israel (שופטי בית המשפט העליון)

The Attorney General of Israel (היועץ המשפטי לממשלה)

The State Comptroller (מבקר המדינה)

The Governor of the Bank of Israel (נגיד בנק ישראל)

Chairman of the World Zionist Organization (יו" הנהלת ההסתדרות הציונית העולמית)

Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel (יו"ר הסוכנות היהודית לארץ ישראל)

The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps (זקן הסגל הדיפלומטי)

The Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (הרמטכ"ל)

The Police Commissioner (מפכ"ל המשטרה)

Members of the Knesset (חברי הכנסת)

Commander of the Prison Service, Commissioner of the Fire and Rescue Commission

Former Prime Ministers, Speakers of Knesset, Chief Rabbis, Presidents of the Supreme court and widows of former Presidents

Heads of Diplomatic Missions

Representatives of the minority communities in Israel – Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Circassians

Mayor of Jerusalem

Israel–Jordan peace treaty

The Israel–Jordan peace treaty or in full "Treaty of Peace Between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan" (Hebrew: הסכם השלום בין ישראל לירדן‎; transliterated: Heskem Ha-Shalom beyn Yisra'el Le-Yarden; Arabic: معاهدة السلام الأردنية الإسرائيلية‎; Arabic transliteration: Mu'ahadat as-Salaam al-'Urdunniyah al-Isra'yliyah), sometimes referred to as Wadi Araba Treaty, was signed in 1994. The signing ceremony took place at the southern border crossing of Arabah on 26 October 1994. Jordan was the second Arab country, after Egypt, to sign a peace accord with Israel.The treaty settled relations between the two countries, adjusted land and water disputes, and provided for broad cooperation in tourism and trade. It included a pledge that neither Jordan nor Israel would allow its territory to become a staging ground for military strikes by a third country.

Jerusalem Law

The Jerusalem Law (Hebrew: חוק יסוד: ירושלים בירת ישראל‎, Arabic: قانون القدس‎) is a common name of Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel passed by the Knesset on 30 July 1980 (17th Av, 5740).

Although the law did not use the term, the Israeli Supreme Court interpreted the law as an effective Annexation of East Jerusalem.

Kitchen Cabinet of Israel

The Kitchen (Hebrew: המטבח‎, HaMitbah) or The Kitchen Cabinet (Hebrew: המטבחון‎, HaMitbahon, lit. The kitchenette) is a term used in Israeli politics to describe the collection of senior officials, or unofficial advisers to the Security Cabinet, as a narrow forum of 'Inner Security Cabinet', operating alongside the Security Cabinet, with the purpose of assisting it in formulating security assessments and policy, in preparation for debating and resolving these issues within the appropriate legal forums.

Law of Return

The Law of Return (Hebrew: חֹוק הַשְׁבוּת, ḥok ha-shvūt) is an Israeli law, passed on 5 July 1950, which gives Jews the right to come and live in Israel and to gain Israeli citizenship. Section 1 of the Law of Return declares:

"every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh [immigrant]."In the Law of Return, the State of Israel gave effect to the Zionist movement's "credo" which called for the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.

In 1970, the right of entry and settlement was extended to people with one Jewish grandparent and a person who is married to a Jew, whether or not he or she is considered Jewish under Orthodox interpretations of Halakha.On the day of arrival in Israel or at a later date, a person who enters Israel under the Law of Return as an oleh would receive a certificate stating that s/he is indeed an oleh. The oleh has three months to decide whether s/he wishes to become a citizen and can renounce citizenship during this time. The right to an oleh certificate may be denied if the person is engaged in activity directed against the Jewish people, endangers public health or security of the state, or who has a criminal past that may endanger public welfare.

Leader of the Opposition (Israel)

The Leader of the Opposition (Hebrew: יוֹשֵׁב רֹאשׁ הַאוֹפּוֹזִיצְיָה, Yoshev Rosh Ha-Opozitzya) is the politician who leads the Official Opposition in the Israeli legislative body, the Knesset.

Legitimacy of Israel

The legitimacy of the State of Israel has been brought into question, specifically, whether Israel's political authority over the area it claims should be accepted as legitimate political authority. The argument as to the legitimacy of the State of Israel is also couched in terms of Israel's right to exist.

Israel has been a member of the United Nations since 11 May 1949, but a number of United Nations member states do not recognize Israel and question its legitimacy or right to exist. The campaign against the legitimacy of Israel is a campaign especially by some Palestinian and Arab leaders and groups for countries to deny or withdraw recognition of Israel.

Liberalism in Israel

Liberalism has played a role in the political history of Israel since Israel's founding. Several liberal political parties have claimed substantial popular support, mainly proved by having representation in the Knesset. While liberalism is usually suspicious of nationalism, Jewish liberals in Israel generally support some form of Zionism.

A long-time liberal, anti-clerical and pro-free market party was Shinui, a member of the Liberal International. Prior to that, conservative liberals (see General Zionists, Liberal Party), were founding members of the Likud, the country's main conservative party, while social liberals (see Progressive Party, Independent Liberals) were integrated in the social-democratic Labor Party. Current liberal (and liberal Zionist) parties are Yesh Atid, Hosen and Kulanu. Additionally, there is the (right-)libertarian Zehut.

By contrast, Balad draws upon liberal values in its aim to eliminate discrimination against Arab citizens and redefine Israel as a state for all its citizens rather than a "Jewish and democratic state", but it is a secular party rather than a liberal one.

October 2000 events

The October 2000 events were a series of protests in Arab cities and towns in northern Israel in October 2000 that turned violent, escalating into rioting by Israeli Arabs throughout Israel, which led to counter-rioting by Israeli Jews and clashes with the Israel Police and ending in the deaths of 13 Arab demonstrators. Most of the Israeli riots took place towards the end, between 7–9 October.The Or Commission was established to investigate the police response to the rioting. Israeli media outlets refer to the episode as אירועי אוקטובר 2000 - the "October 2000 events" while Arab community refers to it as (هبة أكتوبر) the "October ignition."

Provisional State Council

The Provisional State Council (Hebrew: מועצת המדינה הזמנית, Moetzet HaMedina HaZmanit) was the temporary legislature of Israel from shortly before independence until the election of the first Knesset in January 1949. It took the place of His Majesty's Privy Council, through which the British Government had legislated for Mandatory Palestine.

Realignment plan

The realignment plan (Hebrew: תוכנית ההתכנסות‎) (originally dubbed the convergence plan) was a plan by Israel to unilaterally disengage from 90% of the West Bank and annex the rest, incorporating most Israeli settlements into Israel. The plan was formulated and introduced to the Israeli public by then acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert in a number of media interviews during the election campaign for the 17th Knesset in March 2006. The Convergence Plan was originally scheduled to be implemented within 18 months from early May 2006, but in November 2007, Olmert said that he hoped to implement it within three to four years.

Security Cabinet of Israel

The State Security Cabinet (SSC) (Hebrew: הקבינט המדיני-ביטחוני‎, HaKabinet HaMedini-Bithoni) or Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (NSAC- National Security Affairs Committee) (Hebrew: ועדת השרים לענייני ביטחון‎, Va'adat HaSarim Le'Inyanei Bitahon) is a narrow forum of "Inner Cabinet" within the Israeli Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister of Israel, with the purpose of outlining a foreign and defense policy and implementing it. This smaller forum of the cabinet members, is designated to coordinate the diplomatic negotiations, and in times of crisis, especially war, it is designed to make quick and effective decisions.

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