Until 1977 Mapai and the Labor Party dominated the political
scene. Labor became Israel's dominant party as a result of its
predecessors' effective and modernizing leadership during the
formative prestate period (1917-48). The Labor Party (see Appendix
B) resulted in 1968 from the merger of Mapai, Ahdut HaAvoda (Unity
of Labor--see Appendix B), and Rafi. In addition, shortly before
the 1969 elections an electoral Alignment (Maarakh) occurred between
Labor and the smaller Mapam Party. Although the two parties retained
their organizational independence, they shared a common slate
in elections to the Knesset, the Histadrut, and local government
offices. The Alignment lasted until 1984.
Labor's political dominance broke down, particularly following
the June 1967 War, when the party split over its leaders' inability
to reach a consensus concerning the future of the West Bank, the
Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula; there was agreement only
on the need to retain the Golan Heights to ensure strategic depth
against Syria. Later, the October 1973 War dealt a blow to public
confidence in Labor from which its leadership was unable to recover.
The war also exacerbated a number of crises confronting the party
such as those concerning leadership succession. Although the party
survived the Knesset elections of December 31, 1973, with a slightly
reduced plurality, the war led to the resignation of Prime Minister
Meir's government on April 10, 1974. The new leadership team of
Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Yigal Allon, which assumed power
in June 1974, proved unable to govern effectively or to resolve
major issues such as the future of the occupied territories. Following
its electoral defeat in the 1977 Knesset elections, the Labor
Party provided the principal opposition to Likud in the elections
of 1981, 1984, and 1988. In the 1988 Knesset elections, the Labor
Party, despite its efforts to present a revived platform advocating
territorial compromise, gained only thirty-nine seats, down from
forty-four in 1984.
In 1988 the dominant personalities in Labor, in addition to Peres
and Rabin, included former president Yitzhak Navon, former IDF
Chief of Staff Moredechai Gur, and former Likud Defense Minister
Ezer Weizman, who joined Labor in preparation for the 1984 elections.
Labor's biggest problem in the 1980s has been the gradual decline
in its electoral support among growing segments in the electorate,
notably Orientals and the young.
Data as of December 1988