Israeli Labor Party

Israeli Labor Party
Hebrew: מפלגת העבודה הישראלית
Chairman Isaac Herzog
Founded 23 January 1968 (1968-01-23)
Merger of Mapai
Ahdut HaAvoda
Headquarters Tel Aviv, Israel
Youth wing Young Guard
Membership  (2011) 67,000
Ideology Social democracy
Labor Zionism
Two-state solution[1][2][3]
Political position Centre-left[4][5]
National affiliation Zionist Union
European affiliation Party of European Socialists (observer)
International affiliation Progressive Alliance,
Socialist International
Colours          Red, blue
19 / 120
Most MKs 55 (1965)
Fewest MKs 8 (2009)
Election symbol

The Israeli Labor Party (Hebrew: מִפְלֶגֶת הָעֲבוֹדָה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית, translit.  Mifleget HaAvoda HaYisrelit ), commonly known as HaAvoda (Hebrew: הָעֲבוֹדָה), is a social democratic[6][7][8][9] and Zionist[9][10] political party in Israel. The Israeli Labor Party was established in 1968 by a merger of Mapai, Ahdut HaAvoda and Rafi. Until 1977, all Israeli Prime Ministers were affiliated with the Labor movement.[11] The current party leader since 2013 is Isaac Herzog.

The Labor Party is associated with supporting the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, pragmatic foreign affairs policies and social democratic economic policies.[12] The party is a member of the Socialist International[13] and Progressive Alliance,[14] and is an observer member of the Party of European Socialists.[15]


Dominant political party 1968–1977

The foundations for the formation of the Israeli Labor Party were laid shortly before the 1965 Knesset elections when Mapai, the largest left-wing party in the country and the dominant partner in every government since independence, formed an alliance with Ahdut HaAvoda.[16] The alliance was an attempt by Mapai to shore up the party's share of the vote following a break-away of eight MKs (around a fifth of Mapai's Knesset faction) led by former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to form a new party, Rafi, in protest against Mapai's failure to approve a change to the country's proportional representation voting system.

The alliance, called the Labor Alignment won 45 seats in the elections, and was able to form the government in coalition with the National Religious Party, Mapam, the Independent Liberals, Poalei Agudat Yisrael, Progress and Development and Cooperation and Brotherhood. After the Six-Day War broke out, Rafi and Gahal joined the coalition.

On 23 January 1968 Mapai, Ahdut HaAvoda and Rafi (with the exception of Ben-Gurion, who formed the National List in protest) merged into one body, creating the Israeli Labor Party. On 28 January 1969, the party allied itself with Mapam, the alliance becoming known as the Alignment.

As the largest faction within the Alignment, Labor came to dominate it. Mapam left during the eighth Knesset, but rejoined shortly afterwards.

During the 1970s, the welfare state was expanded[17][18] under successive Labor governments, with increases in pension benefits[19] and the creation of new social security schemes such as disability insurance and unemployment insurance in 1970, children’s insurance in 1975, vacation pay for adopting parents in 1976,[20] a Family Allowance for Veterans in 1970, a benefit for Prisoners of Zion in 1973, and a mobility benefit and a Volunteers' Rights benefit in 1975.[21] During 1975–76, a modest program of housing rehabilitation was launched in a dozen or so older neighbourhoods,[22] while the Sick Leave Compensation Law of 1976 provided for compensation in cases when employees were absent from work because of illness.[23]

Opposition and comeback 1977–2001

Labor party ballot: Emet

In the 1977 elections, Labor for the first time ended up in opposition. In the 1984 elections, Labor joined a national unity government with Likud, with the post of Prime Minister rotating between the two parties.

Mapam broke away again during the eleventh Knesset, angry at Shimon Peres's decision to form a national unity government with Likud. Although the Independent Liberals merged into the Alignment in the 1980s, they had no Knesset representation at the time.

On 7 October 1991 the Alignment ceased to exist, with all factions formally merged into the Labor Party. At this time, the Likud Government faced numerous problems, such as economic problems, the challenge of assimilating a large influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, serious tensions with the American government led by President George H.W. Bush and internal division. Led by Yitzhak Rabin, Labor won the 1992 elections and formed the government together with Meretz and Shas. In domestic policy, the Labor-led government introduced various measures to improve levels of social protection. Better provisions were introduced for single parents[24] and people with disabilities,[25] while income support entitlements were liberalised.[26] The 1994 Law to Reduce Poverty and Income Inequality (which was extended a year later) increased income maintenance grants to needy families, particularly benefitting those sections of society most vulnerable to poverty.[27] In 1995, a national health insurance policy was implemented, making access to health care a right for all Israelis.[28]

Various measures were also introduced to bring greater progressivity into the system of collection of national insurance contributions.[29] A maternity grant for adopting mothers was introduced,[30] together with old-age insurance for housewives,[31] a minimum unemployment allowance,[32] and a partial injury allowance.[33] In addition, investments were made in numerous development projects[34] while affirmative action programmes were launched to hire Palestinian citizens in the public sector, the Ministry of Interior increased the budgets for Arab local councils, and the Ministry of Education increased the budget for Arab education.[35]

The subsequent role of Labor became to a large extent tied to the Oslo Accords, based on the principle "land for peace". The Oslo Accords led to a vote of confidence, which the Government won with a margin of 61–50 (8 abstained). Several MKs from the Government parties declined to support the Government, but on the other hand, the Arab parties came to its rescue. Due to the lack of a constitution in Israel, the Government was able to implement the accords with a thin margin.

Rabin's decision to advance peace talks with the Palestinians to the point of signing the Oslo Accords led to his assassination by Yigal Amir in 1995. Peres decided to call early elections in 1996 to give him a mandate for advancing the peace process. However, his ploy failed; although Labor won the most seats in the Knesset election, he lost to the election for Prime Minister to Benjamin Netanyahu following a wave of suicide bombings by Hamas. Netanyahu and Likud were thus able to form the government.

With his coalition falling apart, Netanyahu decided to call early elections in 1999. Ehud Barak won the internal primaries, and was nominated as the Labor candidate for Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the party entered an electoral alliance with Meimad and Gesher called One Israel. Barak won the Prime Minister election, whilst One Israel won the Knesset elections, albeit with only 26 seats.

Barak started by forming a 75-member coalition together with Shas, Meretz, Yisrael BaAliyah, the National Religious Party and United Torah Judaism. The coalition with religious parties (NRP, Shas and UTJ) caused tensions with the secularist Meretz, who quit the coalition after a disagreement with Shas over the authority of the Deputy Education Minister. The rest of the parties left before the Camp David 2000 summit.

Decline 2001–2011

Following the October 2000 riots and the violence of the al-Aqsa Intifada, Barak resigned from office. He then lost a special election for Prime Minister to Likud's Ariel Sharon. However, Labor remained in Sharon's coalition as he formed a national unity government with Likud, Labor, Shas, Yisrael BaAliyah and United Torah Judaism, and were given two of the most important cabinet portfolios; Peres was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was made Defense Minister. Labor supported Operation Defensive Shield, which was conducted in April 2002 against Palestinians in the West Bank. After harsh criticism that Peres and Ben-Elizer were "puppets" of Sharon and not promoting the peace process, Labor quit the government in 2003.

Prior to the 2003 elections, Amram Mitzna won the party primaries, and led the party into the election with a platform that included unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The party was routed in the elections, winning only 19 seats (its lowest ever), whilst Sharon's Likud won 38 (40 after Yisrael BaAliyah merged into the party). Subsequently, due to internal opposition, Mitzna resigned from the party leadership,[36] and soon afterwards was replaced by Shimon Peres. Despite being omitted from the original right-wing coalition, Sharon invited Labor into the coalition to shore up support for the disengagement plan (effectively Mitzna's policy which he had earlier lambasted) after the National Union and the National Religious Party had left the government.

On 8 November 2005, Shimon Peres was replaced as the leader of the Labor party by the election of left-wing Histadrut union leader Amir Peretz in an internal Labor party ballot. Critics of Labor have argued that, over the years, the party had abandoned its socialist heritage in favor of economic and business elites, and had passed the mantle of custodian of the underprivileged to right-wing and religious parties.[37] Peretz stated his intention to reassert Labor's traditional socialist policies and took Labor party out of the government, prompting Sharon to resign and call for new elections in March 2006. Prior to the election, the political map had been redrawn, as Sharon and the majority of Likud's MKs, together with a number of Labor MKs, including Shimon Peres, and some from other parties, had formed the new political party Kadima. In the elections Labor won 19 seats, making it the second largest party after Kadima. It joined Ehud Olmert's Kadima-led government, with Peretz appointed Defense Minister. Labor's main coalition demand and campaign promise was raising the minimum wage.[38]

On 28 May 2007 a leadership election resulted in Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon beating Peretz into third place. In the run-off election (required as neither Barak nor Ayalon received over 40% of the vote), Barak was re-elected as party chairman. Despite stating that he would withdraw the party from the government unless Olmert resigned,[39] Barak remained in government and took over as Defense Minister.

Prior to the 2009 elections Labor and Meimad ended their alliance, with Meimad ultimately running a joint list with the Green Movement (which did not pass the electoral threshold). Several prominent members left the party, including Ami Ayalon, and Efraim Sneh (who formed Yisrael Hazaka). In the elections Labor was reduced to just 13 seats, making it the fourth largest party behind Kadima, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu.

Analysing the downfall of the once dominant political party in Israel, Efraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies points to several factors. By forfeiting identification with the establishment and building of the State of Israel, symbolised by a predilection for military service and by the settling of the land of Israel, Labor lost its most important asset. Deserting the Zionist symbol of Jerusalem, by showing willingness to cede part of it to the Palestinians was an ill-fated move. When cosmopolitan and individualist values made inroads into the party, it distanced itself from the collectivist ethos that has been dominant and is still widespread in Israel. Their association with the Oslo Accords meant that they could not avoid being discredited by its failure. Demographic factors have worked against Labor, as the growing Sefardi population, as well as the recent Russian-Jewish immigrants, have largely voted for other parties. Attempts to gain the support of the Israeli Arab voters have damaged the image of the party, and yielded no harvest.[37]

2011 split and moderate rise since

On 17 January 2011, disillusionment with party leader Ehud Barak, over his support for coalition policies, especially regarding the peace process, led to Barak's resignation from the Labor Party with four other Knesset members to establish a new "centrist, Zionist and democratic" party, Independence. Following this move, all Labor Party government ministers resigned.

Two days after the split, a group of prominent members of Israel's business, technology, and cultural communities including Jerusalem Venture Partners founder Erel Margalit founded the "Avoda Now" movement calling for a revival of the Labor Party. The movement launched a public campaign calling the people to support the Labor party, with the aim of renewing its institutions, restore its social values, and choose new dynamic leadership.[40]

Shelly Yachimovich was elected leader in 2011 saying "I promise that we will work together. This is just the beginning of a new start for Israeli society." She was congratulated by many in the party including her one-time rival Amir Peretz.[41] Yachimovich was replaced as leader by Isaac Herzog in 2013.

In the 2013 legislative election held on 22 January 2013, Labor received 11.39% of the national vote, winning 15 seats.[42]

On 10 December 2014, party leader Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, leader and founder of the Hatnuah party, announced an electoral alliance to contest the upcoming legislative election.[43] In the 2015 legislative election on 7 March 2015, the joint list Zionist Union received 24 seats in the Knesset, of which 19 belong to the Labor Party.

Political principles


Mapai evolved from the socialist Poale Zion movement and adhered to the Socialist Zionist ideology promulgated by Nahum Syrkin and Ber Borochov. During Ben-Gurion's leadership (1930s–1950s), Mapai focused mainly on the Zionist agenda, since it was the most urgent issue then—establishing a homeland for the Jewish people.

After the founding of the state of Israel, Mapai engaged in nation building—the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces (while dismantling every other armed group), the establishment of many settlements, the settling of more than 1,000,000 Jewish immigrants and the desire to unite all the inhabitants of Israel under a new Zionist Jewish Israeli culture (an ideology known as the "Melting pot" כור היתוך).

Labor in the past was more hawkish on security and defense issues than it is today. During its years in office, Israel has fought the 1956 Sinai War, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War.


Labor's original socialist ideology has evolved into a programme that supports a market economy with strong social welfare programmes. In the post–Cold War era, the party's foreign policy retains a strong orientation toward the United States, and its security policy maintains that a permanent peace with the Palestinians can only be based on agreements that are enforceable.[44] Along with other center-left Israeli parties, it is committed to the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It believes in maintaining a strong defense force and also supports the promotion of individual human rights. It supports most Supreme Court decisions on the latter issue, as well as the adoption of a written constitution that would entrench human rights.[44]

In November 2005, Amir Peretz, leader of the social-democratic One Nation which had merged into Labor, was elected chairman of the party, defeating Shimon Peres. Under Peretz, and especially in the 2006 electoral campaign, the party took a significant ideological turn, putting social and economic issues on top of its agenda, and advocating a moderate social-democratic approach (including increases in minimum wage and social security payments), in sharp contrast to the neoliberal policies led by former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 2006, several members of the ILP left to join the new centrist grouping, Kadima; these included former Labor leader Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon, and Dalia Itzik.

The international media has described the Labor Party as centre-left, social-democratic, and dovish.

Party leaders

Other prominent members

Prominent former members include:

Electoral results

Election year Coalition # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader Government /
632,135 (#1)
56 / 120
Increase 11
Golda Meir
621,183 (#1)
51 / 120
Decrease 5
Golda Meir
430,023 (#2)
32 / 120
Decrease 19
Shimon Peres
708,536 (#2)
47 / 120
Increase 15
Shimon Peres
724,074 (#1)
44 / 120
Decrease 3
Shimon Peres
685,363 (#2)
39 / 120
Decrease 5
Shimon Peres
906,810 (#1)
44 / 120
Increase 5
Yitzhak Rabin
818,741 (#1)
34 / 120
Decrease 10
Shimon Peres
One Israel
670,484 (#1)
26 / 120
Decrease 8
Ehud Barak
455,183 (#2)
19 / 120
Decrease 7
Amram Mitzna
472,366 (#2)
19 / 120
Steady 0
Amir Peretz
334,900 (#4)
13 / 120
Decrease 6
Ehud Barak
432,118 (#3)
15 / 120
Increase 2
Shelly Yachimovich
Zionist Union
786,313 (#2)
24 / 120
Increase 9
Isaac Herzog

Current MKs

Amir Peretz rejoined the Labor party in September 2015


  1. Elshout, Jan (2011). "It's a Myth That Israelis Support a Two-State Solution". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (March 2011): 24 f.
  2. "Guide to Israel's political parties". BBC News. 21 January 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  3. Ishaan Tharoor (14 March 2015). "A guide to the political parties battling for Israel's future". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  4. Cheryl Rubenberg (2003). The Palestinians: In Search of a Just Peace. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 410. ISBN 978-1-58826-225-7.
  5. Sharon Weinblum (2015). Security and Defensive Democracy in Israel: A Critical Approach to Political Discourse. Routledge. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-317-58450-6.
  6. Emilie van Haute; Anika Gauja (2015). Party Members and Activists. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-317-52432-8.
  7. Richard Collin; Pamela L. Martin (2012). An Introduction to World Politics: Conflict and Consensus on a Small Planet. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-4422-1803-1. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  8. Rhodes Cook (2004). The Presidential Nominating Process: A Place for Us?. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-7425-2594-8. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  9. 1 2 Sara E. Karesh; Mitchell M. Hurvitz (2005). Encyclopedia of Judaism. Infobase Publishing. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-8160-6982-8.
  10. James C. Docherty; Peter Lamb (2 October 2006). Historical Dictionary of Socialism. Scarecrow Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-8108-6477-1. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  11. The Labor Party Jewish Virtual Library
  12. "Israel Labour Party". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  13. List of Members Socialist International
  14. "Participants | Progressive Alliance". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  15. Parties Party of European Socialists
  16. "Israel Political Parties: Ahdut Ha'avodah". Jewish Virtual Library.
  17. Swirski, Shlomo (2004). Politics and Education in Israel: Comparisons with the United States. Taylor & Francis. p. 204. ISBN 0203906721.
  18. Portugese, Jacqueline (1998). Fertility Policy in Israel: The Politics of Religion, Gender, and Nation. Greenwood. p. 98. ISBN 0-275-96098-6.
  19. Ben-Arieh, A.; Gal, J. (2001). Into the Promised Land: Issues Facing the Welfare State. Praeger. p. 106. ISBN 9780275969059. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  20. Social Security Administration (1 March 2011). "Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Asia and the Pacific, 2010 - Israel" (PDF). Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  21. Gal, John (2001). "Values, Categorical Benefits and Categorical Legacies in Israel". In Asher Ben-Arieh; John Gal. Into the Promised Land: Issues Facing the Welfare State. Greenwood. p. 126. ISBN 0-275-96905-3.
  22. Lazin, Frederick A. (1994). Politics and Policy Implementation: Project Renewal in Israel. State University of New York Press. p. 18. ISBN 0-7914-1691-7.
  23. "Employment" (PDF). The Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  25. "Changes to disability benefits". International Social Security Association.
  26. "Changes to income support entitlements". International Social Security Association.
  27. Alisa C. Lewin and Haya Stier (25 April 2002). "Who Benefits the Most? The Unequal Allocation of Transfers in the Israeli Welfare State" (PDF). Social Science Quarterly. Southwestern Social Science Association. 83 (2). Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  28. "2BackToHomePage2". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  29. "Collection of contributions". International Social Security Association. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014.
  30. "Maternity grant for adopting mother". International Social Security Association. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014.
  31. "Old-age insurance for housewives". International Social Security Association. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014.
  32. "Unemployment allowances and minimum wages". International Social Security Association. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014.
  33. "Payment of partial injury allowance". International Social Security Association. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014.
  34. "Sheves Shimon about the social and economic policies of Rabin's government - YouTube". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  35. Go, Julian (19 September 2012). Political Power and Social Theory. Emerald Group Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 9781780528670. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  36. "Mitzna's resignation speech". 20 June 1995. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  37. 1 2 Efraim Inbar: "The Decline of the Israel Labor Party" Perspectives Papers on Current Affairs, Perspectives 70, 23 February 2009.
  38. Kadima, Labor talks 'making progress'
  39. Israel party votes to oust leader BBC News, 29 May 2007
  40. "Erel Margalit Announces His Candidacy to Lead the Labor Party". Reuters. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  41. "Yacimovich celebrates becoming Labor leader: We've won - Breaking News - Jerusalem Post". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  42. "Elections in Israel January 2013". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  43. "Labor, Livni Agree to Join Forces Ahead of Elections - National - Haaretz". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  44. 1 2 Baskin, Judith Reesa, ed. (2010). The Cambridge Dictionary of Judaism and Jewish Culture. Cambridge University Press. p. 303. ISBN 9780521825979.
  45. Somfalvi, Attila (23 January 2011). "Labor chooses temporary chairman". Ynetnews. Retrieved 9 February 2011.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Israeli Labor Party.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/20/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.