Israel Labor Party
- (Mifleget Haavoda Haisraelit)The successor to Mapai that dominated the politics of the prestate Yishuv and the first three decades of independence. On 21 January 1968, Mapai merged with two other labor parties, Ahdut Haavoda and Rafi, to form the Israel Labor Party. The merger did not eliminate the differences between the coalition's components but instead shifted the quarrels to the intraparty sphere. It was within the confines of the Labor Party that the problems of political leadership and succession for the government of Israel were resolved. Beginning with the 1969 Knesset election, the Labor Party was joined in an election alliance (the Alignment) with Mapam, although both parties retained their own organizational structures and ideological positions. The new party retained Labor's dominant position until 1977, when lackluster leadership, corruption scandals, and the founding of the Democratic Movement for Change made way for the Likud victory. Mapam left the Alignment in 1984 to protest the party's agreement to form a Government of National Unity with Likud.Labor's policies are Zionist and socialist. They include support for the immigration (see ALIYA) of Jews to Israel; establishment of a social welfare state; and a state-planned and publicly regulated economy with room for the participation of private capital, full employment, minimum wages, and the right to strike. Labor stands for the separation of religion and the state, although it has historically made major concessions to the religious parties in this area. It supports equality for minorities, including the Arabs of Israel.Historically the "Jordan Option" was the cornerstone of Labor's approach for resolving the dispute over territories occupied in 1967. Viewing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist organization, Labor preferred to negotiate with Jordan's King Hussein. This approach changed in 1993, when, in the context of the Declaration of Principles negotiated with the PLO at Oslo, Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to recognize the PLO and to undertake a complex negotiating formula that required Israel to cede territory in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to an elected Palestinian self-governing authority in return for normalized relations and an end to terrorism and all other forms of violence.For many years, Labor Party politics was characterized by an intense power struggle between Rabin and Shimon Peres. Peres, once an ally of Moshe Dayan and David Ben-Gurion in the breakaway Rafi faction, served as defense minister in Rabin's first government (1974-77). In 1977, Peres replaced Rabin as Labor chairman, when, on the eve of national elections, Rabin was forced to step down after admitting that he and his wife had maintained an illegal bank account in the United States while he was serving as Israel's ambassador there. Under Peres, Labor was defeated in the 1977 election, but Peres retained the leadership of the party, withstanding a challenge by Rabin at Labor's December 1980 national convention. Rabin served as defense minister in the Government of National Unity formed by Peres in 1984 and continued in that position in the unity government formed in 1988, with Peres as finance minister.After several tries, Rabin finally succeeded in ousting Peres as Labor Party leader in early 1992 and led his party to victory in the 23 June 1992 election to the 13th Knesset. In the new government, Rabin served as both prime minister and defense minister and appointed Peres as foreign minister. To the surprise of many observers, the two old rivals achieved a modus vivendi and together set Israel on a new course that resulted in a series of interim agreements with the PLO, the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, and the opening of substantive negotiations with a number of Arab countries (including Syria).Following the November 1995 assassination of Rabin, the leadership of the Labor Party reverted to Peres, who was narrowly defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu in the first direct election of the prime minister on 29 May 1996. Peres resigned as party leader in June 1997 and was replaced by former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff Ehud Barak. Prior to the 1999 election, Barak signed separate agreements to draw Gesher and Meimad into the One Israel Party. The expanded electoral alliance won 26 seats in the elections held on 17 May 1999, becoming the single largest party in the 15th Knesset, while in the direct election for prime minister, Barak defeated Likud leader Netanyahu by a count of 56.1 percent to 43.9 percent.Barak, who campaigned on the themes of an "Israel of change and hope" and a "revolution in the State of Israel," presented his seven-party coalition and its program before the Knesset on 6 July 1999. A centerpiece of One Israel's domestic platform was Barak's pledge to severely redefine the status quo agreement that had conditioned Israel's religious affairs since independence, beginning with a move to end most deferments from military service for men studying in Orthodox rabbinical institutions. In terms of security and foreign policy, in 1999, One Israel laid forth the following "red lines" for final status negotiations with the Palestinians: Jerusalem would remain united under Israeli sovereignty; there would be no return to the pre-Six-Day War lines; there would be no Arab or Palestinian army west of the Jordan River; and most Jewish residents of the West Bank would live in large settlement blocs under Israeli sovereignty. Barak also pledged that his government would hold a national referendum on a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Barak pledged to withdraw the IDF from Lebanon within one year of taking office and to resume meaningful negotiations with Syria toward an agreement affecting both the south Lebanon security zone and the Golan Heights.Barak worked hard to fulfill his ambitious program, especially in the diplomatic realm. Serious negotiations were conducted with the Syrians in Washington, DC, and Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and consistent with Barak's campaign pledge, the IDF was withdrawn from Lebanon in May 2000, within one year of becoming prime minister. With the Palestinians, Barak sought to redefine the diplomatic terms of reference by offering territorial concessions at the Camp David talks (July 2000) that, in many cases, exceeded the "red lines" of all previous Israeli governments. More disturbing still, for many Israelis, was Barak's readiness to "make concessions under fire": to agree to even greater concessions recommended by U.S. president William J. (Bill) Clinton at the Taba talks in December 2000-January 2001, three months into the Al-Aksa intifada. Israel's body politic could neither understand nor countenance this type of behavior in their prime minister.Indeed, Barak had lost the confidence of the majority of his governing coalition over the Camp David-Taba negotiations with the Palestinians, and he was subsequently trounced by Likud leader Ariel Sharon in the direct election for prime minister held on 6 February 2001, with Sharon taking 62.3 percent of the valid ballots cast compared to Barak's 37.6 percent. Barak immediately resigned as Labor Party leader and was temporarily replaced by Peres, who led the party into a new national unity coalition headed by Sharon.On the eve of the 2003 election for the 16th Knesset, the popular former mayor of Haifa, Amram Mitzna, was elected leader of the One Israel Party, defeating Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Yosef Burg. Several elements of the Israel Labor Party's 2003 policy platform would ultimately be reflected in the policies of Israel's 30th government headed by Sharon, including Sharon's plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip and from parts of the northern West Bank. However, in the 2003 election campaign, the memories of the errors made by successive Labor-led governments during the Oslo peace process and the terrorism of the Al-Aksa intifada were still too fresh in the minds of the Israeli electorate, the result being a resounding defeat for Labor, which took only 19 seats in the 16th Knesset (down from 26).Mitzna immediately resigned as leader, with the indefatigable Peres stepping in once again on a temporary basis. In May 2004, an agreement was reached to have Amir Peretz's One People (Am Echad) Party reintegrated with Labor. Labor reentered the Sharon-led coalition on 10 January 2005 to help it win parliamentary approval for the controversial Gaza unilateral disengagement plan. Nevertheless, it was generally agreed that the Israel Labor Party was at an existential crossroads.On 9 November 2005, Labor held a leadership primary in preparation for anticipated early election to the 17th Knesset. Despite a consistent lead in public opinion surveys over all competitors, the incumbent leader Peres was defeated in the first round of voting by Histadrut leader and former One Nation (Am Echad) leader Peretz by a ratio of 42.2 percent to 40 percent. Running on a campaign that emphasized, among other things, returning Israel to its social-democratic ideological roots and placing the quality of domestic social and economic policy above foreign and security policy, the election of the Moroccan-born Peretz threatened to reshape the Israel Labor Party and perhaps the very nature of Israeli politics. Labor won 19 seats in the election for the 17th Knesset in March 2006. Labor joined the 31st government of Israel under the leadership of Ehud Olmert, and Peretz became defense minister.On 13 June 2007, former Israel Labor Party leader and prime minister Ehud Barak was reelected party leader, taking 51.3 percent of the vote in a Labor Party leadership primary, compared to 47.7 percent for Labor member of the Knesset and former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon. Barak subsequently replaced former Labor Party leader Peretz as minister of defense in the Kadima-led coalition government headed by Olmert.See also Political parties.
Historical Dictionary of Israel. Bernard Reich David H. Goldberg. Edited by Jon Woronoff..
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