Israel Labour Party

Published 2nd January, 2013

The Israel Labour Party or ILP was founded in 1968, but can trace its history back to the Mapai (Labour) Party which had been a core party of coalition governments since 1948. The party describes itself as centre to centre-left and believes in Social Democracy and Labor Zionism.

The ILP, in its first electoral outing in 1969, formed an alliance with Mapam called Alignment. They went on to win the general election, taking 56 seats in the 120 seat Knesset and creating the first woman prime minister for Israel, Golda Meir. She went on to lead Alignment to a further win in 1973 where they took 51 seats, but she was forced to resign after internal divisions made her position untenable. She was replaced by Yitzhak Rabin who remained in post until 1977.

In the 1977 election Alignment lost the election and went in to opposition with 32 seats. Led by Shimon Peres, Alignment also lost the 1981 election, coming second with 47 seats.

Although the party only won 44 seats in 1984 they emerged as the largest party and went on to form a national unity government with Likud. This approach was repeated after the 1988 general election when Alignment won 39 seats.

By 1991 Alignment had run its course and it was merged into the Israel Labour Party on 7th October that year. The following year the Labour Party won 44 seats in the general election and as the largest party its leader, Yitzhak Rabin, went on to form a coalition government. Rabin was assassinated on 4th November 1995 and was replaced by Shimon Peres as prime minister.

Peres decided to call an early election in 1996 to seek a fresh mandate for peace. This was the first of two elections where voters voted for a separate prime minister. Peres lost to Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud but the ILP was the largest party with 34 seats. It made little difference as Netanyahu went on to form a coalition government without the ILP.

In 1999 roles were reversed and Benjamin Netanyahu lost the prime ministerial election to Ehud Barak the ILP leader. Barak was, however, heading up an alliance of the ILP and two smaller parties called One Israel. The new alliance also won the general election, taking 26 seats and becoming the largest party. The new government was eventually formed of One Israel, Shas, Meretz, Yisrael BaAliyah, the Centre Party, the National Religious Party and United Torah Judaism.

By 2002 the Israel Labour Party had withdrawn from the government and in 2003 they had joined forces with Meimad to fight the election. The two parties won 19 seats, coming a poor second,although eventually they joined the Likud led government in January 2005, only to pull out of the government later that year.

In 2006 the two parties fought the general election together again and again they won 19 of the 120 seats in the Knesset. They entered into the Kadima led coalition.

In 2009 the Israel Labour Party ran on its own once more and dropped to fourth place and won 13 seats. The party went on to join the Likud led government of Benjamin Netanyahu but in the process was deeply divided.

After a period where the party nearly collapsed, it was revived by a group of businessmen and civic leaders and elected a new leader in Shelly Yachimovich.

The Israel Labour Party is an observer member of both Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists.

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