A Study Into the Breakdown of Coalition Formation in Israel's First Knesset
Macdonald, John M.
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The state of Israel, at this writing, has existed for twenty-nine years. In those twenty-nine years the ruling government coalition has fallen eighteen times. (Arian, 1975, 31) Three times, the fall has been so complete that the parliament, or Knesset, of those times was unable to form a new ruling coalition. Those three Knessets had to end their terms of office early and hold elections for a new Knesset. Three political parties have been in nearly every coalition that has ever been formed in the government of Israel. The first of these is Mapai, a party that prided itself on being secular in the sense of religious neutrality. Mapai has traditionally been the largest party, or segment of the later Labor party, and has been the party of the Prime Minister up until 1977. As such, it has always been the largest and most powerful member of any coalition. The other two parties are political parties based ideologically upon Orthodox Judaism. These two are called Mizrachi and haPoel haMizrachi. They have sometimes been joined in the coalition by two other religious parties, called Agudat Israel, and Poal'ei Agudat Israel. Five government coalitions have been brought to an end at the normal end to the term of office of five of the eight Knessets. Ten coalitions have fallen without provoking early elections. The disagreeing factions within those coalitions were often Mapai and the religious parties. Normally, negotiated settlements have resulted in new coalitions out of the same Knesset. The First Knesset, and the Second Government which fell and took that Knesset along with it, are the subjects of this study. The Second Government and the First Knesset were ended by irreconcilable differences between Mapai and the religious parties. This paper will try to answer one central question: Why did this particular government fall? What were the factors unique to this government which brought about the complete collapse of coalition formation in the First Knesset?