Labor Party

Israel Table of Contents

Until 1977 Mapai and the Labor Party dominated the political scene. Labor became Israel's dominant party as a result of its predecessors' effective and modernizing leadership during the formative prestate period (1917-48). The Labor Party resulted in 1968 from the merger of Mapai, Ahdut HaAvoda (Unity of Labor), and Rafi. In addition, shortly before the 1969 elections an electoral Alignment (Maarakh) occurred between Labor and the smaller Mapam Party. Although the two parties retained their organizational independence, they shared a common slate in elections to the Knesset, the Histadrut, and local government offices. The Alignment lasted until 1984.

Labor's political dominance broke down, particularly following the June 1967 War, when the party split over its leaders' inability to reach a consensus concerning the future of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula; there was agreement only on the need to retain the Golan Heights to ensure strategic depth against Syria. Later, the October 1973 War dealt a blow to public confidence in Labor from which its leadership was unable to recover. The war also exacerbated a number of crises confronting the party such as those concerning leadership succession. Although the party survived the Knesset elections of December 31, 1973, with a slightly reduced plurality, the war led to the resignation of Prime Minister Meir's government on April 10, 1974. The new leadership team of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Yigal Allon, which assumed power in June 1974, proved unable to govern effectively or to resolve major issues such as the future of the occupied territories. Following its electoral defeat in the 1977 Knesset elections, the Labor Party provided the principal opposition to Likud in the elections of 1981, 1984, and 1988. In the 1988 Knesset elections, the Labor Party, despite its efforts to present a revived platform advocating territorial compromise, gained only thirty-nine seats, down from forty-four in 1984.

In 1988 the dominant personalities in Labor, in addition to Peres and Rabin, included former president Yitzhak Navon, former IDF Chief of Staff Moredechai Gur, and former Likud Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, who joined Labor in preparation for the 1984 elections. Labor's biggest problem in the 1980s has been the gradual decline in its electoral support among growing segments in the electorate, notably Orientals and the young.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress