Israel Labor Party: History and Overview

Reference: Jewish Virtual Library

The Labor Party (In Hebrew, Mifleget ha-Avodah ha-Yisraelit) was established in 1968 through the joining of Mapai, Ahdut Ha’avodah and Labor Rafi. Labor is the dominant left-of-center party in Israel. Until Menachem Begin’s victory in 1977, every Israeli Prime Minister came from Labor. Since 1977, Labor leaders Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak have served as Prime Ministers.

The Israel Labor Party is a social-democratic political party. Its ideological vision for Israel is based upon the values of the Jewish labor movement, which are in turn, products of the social experience and cultural heritage of the Jewish people.

The Labor Party has a principled commitment to the maintenance of a democratic form of government; to the enhancement of the social and economic well being of all of Israel’s citizens; to the strengthening of Israel’s economy based on free market principles; and, to the achievement of a comprehensive peace with security in the Middle East.

The Labor Party is pragmatic in its approach. It recognizes the necessity to compromise in both the domestic arena and in foreign affairs in order to promote political stability and the advancement of Israel’s fundamental interests.

Leaders of Israel’s Labor Party have included some of the countries most recognizable names, including David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Abba Eban, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, andEhud Barak. The party is currently led by Shelly Yachimovich.

Before the October 1973 War, the Labor Party was hampered by internal dissension, persistent allegations of corruption, ambiguities and contradictions in its political platform, and by the disaffection of Oriental Jews. Labor’s failure to prepare the country for the war further alienated a large segment of the electorate.

Despite Labor’s commitment to exchange occupied territories for peace, successive Labor governments beginning soon after the June 1967 War established settlements in the territories and refrained from dismantling illegal settlements, such as those established in 1968 at Qiryat Arba in Hebron by Rabbi Moshe Levinger and others set up by the extremist settler movement Gush Emunim. By 1976 more than thirty settlements had been established on the West Bank.

Another contradiction in Labor’s political platform concerned Jerusalem. All Labor governments have proclaimed that Jerusalem will always remain the undivided capital of Israel. In effect, this stance precludes the peace for territories formula contained in Resolution 242 because neither Jordan nor the Palestinians would be likely to accept any agreement by which Jerusalem remained in Israeli hands.

The post-1973 Labor Party estrangement from the Israeli public intensified throughout 1976 as the party was hit with a barrage of corruption charges that struck at the highest echelons. Rabin’s minister of housing, who was under investigation for alleged abuses during his time as director general of the Histadrut Housing Authority, committed suicide in January 1977. At the same time, the governor of the Bank of Israel, who had been nominated by Rabin, was sentenced to jail for taking bribes and evading taxes, and the director general of the Ministry of Housing was apprehended in various extortion schemes. Finally, and most egregious, Rabin himself was caught lying about money illegally kept in a bank account in the United States.


Sources: Labor Party; Library of Congress;

Copyright American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Reprinted with permission.