(Israel Twitter)Israeli Labor Party, מפלגת העבודה הישראלית, Mifleget HaAvoda HaYisraelit generally known in Israel as Avoda (Hebrew: עבודה) is a center-left political party in Israel. It is a social democratic and Zionist party, a member of the Socialist International and an observer member of the Party of European Socialists. From 1999 until 2008, the party was allied to the small left-wing, religious Zionist party Meimad, in an electoral agreement whereby Meimad received the tenth seat on Labor's list.
Dominating 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 formed an alliance with Ahdut HaAvoda. 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 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, Agudat Israel Workers, 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; 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.
Opposition and comeback 1977–2001
In the 1977 elections, Labor for the first time ended up in opposition. They failed to retake power four years later, but following the 1984 elections, they were able to join a national unity government with Likud, with the post as 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 tension with the American government under 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.
The subsequent role of Labor became to a large extent tied to the controversial Oslo process, 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.
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 Benjanin 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,and soon there after 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 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.
In recent years (up until 2005), Labor became a centrist party. It was no longer considered socialist or social democratic (though it retained membership in the Socialist International) but had a centrist platform, similar to the Third Way of British Labour Party under Tony Blair. Economic policies in Israel being seldom hotly debated even within the major parties, actual policies depended much more on initiative by the civil service than on political ideologies. Therefore, Labor's terms in office during this period did not differ significantly in terms of economic policy from those of its rival.
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 neo-liberal policies led by former Finance Minister Binyamin 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 center-left, social democratic, and dovish.