In This Article Israeli Politics

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Websites
  • State Building

Political Science Israeli Politics
Gideon Rahat, Jonathan Mendilow
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 November 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0059


Israel is a parliamentary democracy that was established in 1948. However, the foundations of its political system were laid before the state was established, in the framework of the Zionist movement and the Jewish community in Palestine, especially at the time of the British Mandate (1920–1948). Israel is a multicleavage society. The main rift is between Jews (about 75 percent of the population, as of 2011) and Arab/Palestinian citizens (about 20 percent). Prominent rifts also exist among the Jews: the religious–secular rift, the intra-Jewish communal rift (Ashkenazi–Mizrachi), the ideological rift (left–right), and the rift among new immigrants and natives and veteran immigrants. Partly as a result of the highly proportional electoral system, these social rifts are translated into multiparty politics and coalition governments.

General Overviews and Textbooks

Galnoor and Blander 2013, Arian 2005 and Mahler 2010 are basic introductory textbooks. Shapira 2014 presents the history of the Yishuv and Israel from the late 19th century to the present day. Freedman 2009 is a recent collection that contains overviews on domestic politics, foreign affairs, and security. Dowty 1998 also covers a lot of ground in an attempt to assess the shaping of Israeli democracy and its challenges. Shafir and Peled 2002 is a critical study that focuses on identity and citizenship and its development from the beginning of the modern Zionist movement to the present. Eisenstadt 1992 presents a historical and comparative perspective on the survival and adaptations of the Jewish culture and discusses the Israeli polity within this perspective. Barnett 1996 and Levi-Faur, et al. 1999 struggle with claims concerning Israel’s uniqueness and look at various issues, making the case for its comparability and for its understanding through comparative tools.

  • Arian, Asher. Politics in Israel: The Second Republic. 2d ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2005.

    E-mail Citation »

    A basic introductory textbook that centers on Israeli political institutions (parties, interest group, state institutions); behavioral aspects (electoral behavior, political culture); and issues such as political economy and public policy.

  • Barnett, Michael N., ed. Israel in Comparative Perspective: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

    E-mail Citation »

    The chapters in this collection look at the general question of comparability, drawing on an array of international relations and domestic issues to make their case. These include foreign policy, the Diaspora, gender, economy, society formation, and Zionism.

  • Dowty, Alan. The Jewish State: A Century Later. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book examines the shaping of Israeli democracy, specifically with the influences of Jewish politics, Zionism, the security threat, and ideology. It then examines the main challenges to democracy: the rifts between Jews originating from different countries and regions (Ashkenazi and Mizrachi), between the secular and religious sectors, and between Jews and Arabs, as well as the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

  • Eisenstadt, Shmuel N. Jewish Civilization: The Jewish Historical Experience in a Comparative Perspective. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

    E-mail Citation »

    This work presents a historical and comparative perspective on the survival and adaptations of the Jewish culture and presents the Israeli polity within this perspective.

  • Freedman, Robert O., ed. Contemporary Israel: Domestic Politics, Foreign Policy, and Security Challenges. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    A recent collection that contains chapters written by prominent scholars of Israeli politics. It covers, for example, domestic politics, Israel’s political parties, the Supreme Court and the economy; foreign affairs (with special attention given to Israel’s relations with the Palestinians), the Arab world and the United States, and security challenges.

  • Galnoor, Itzhak, and Dana Blander. Hamaarechet Hapolitit Beyisrael. Tel Aviv: Am Oved and Israel Democracy Institute, 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    A two-volume comprehensive introductory textbook. The first volume includes chapters on state formation, political institutions, civil society, and various aspects of political behavior. The second volume discusses the problems of security, the status of Israel’s Arab/Palestinian citizens, economic inequality and social gaps, religion and state, and overviews Israel’s political culture.

  • Levi-Faur, David, Gabriel Sheffer, and David Vogel, eds. Israel: Dynamics of Change and Continuity. London: Frank Cass, 1999.

    E-mail Citation »

    A group of leading scholars struggle with claims concerning Israel’s uniqueness. They explore the general question of comparability and also address issues such as the courts, constitutional politics, leadership, interest politics, political economy, and public policy.

  • Mahler, Gregory S. Politics and Government in Israel: The Maturation of a Modern State. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    A basic introductory textbook that supplies an overview of the historical, political, and social setting; the main political institutions (governmental, parties, interest groups); and foreign policy, including the Palestinians and the peace process.

  • Shafir, Gershon, and Yoav Peled. Being Israeli: The Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139164641E-mail Citation »

    A critical study that focuses on identity and citizenship and its development from the beginning of the modern Zionist movement up to the present. The book deals with the various social rifts and their development, with changes in the economy and the implications of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

  • Shapira, Anita. Israel: A History. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2014.

    E-mail Citation »

    History of Israel from the origins of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century to the early 21st century.

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