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Mapai - Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisrael

The Workers Party of the Land of Israel

Established in 1930, the Mapai party resulted from the union of two parties: Ahdut HaAvoda and HaPoel HaTzair.

The left union was not complete, as Hashomer Hatzair and Poalei Zion Smol (Left) were left out of the union.

Throughout its existence, Mapai was the largest, strongest, and most dominant party on the political map. During the British Mandate, it controlled the main institutions, the Zionist Congresses, and the Histadrut labor federation.

The Histadrut was founded in 1920 by socialist parties. During its first decade, it established economic and governmental institutions. It became a sort of 'State within a state' under British mandate rule. It founded Bank Hapoalim (under Berl Katznelson's influence), an insurance company, an agricultural company, and cooperative institutions. It even had its own newspaper (Davar), a theater, a youth movement, and a sports organization. It also established large enterprises and entities such as Solel Boneh, HaMashbir (chain of department stores), the General Health Insurance Fund, and Mishaan (retirement homes).

During the Yishuv period, the leaders of Mapai were David Ben-Gurion, Berl Katznelson, and Haim Arlosoroff.

Mapai also forged its military power. Its men were at the head of the Haganah and even regulated Jewish Brigade recruitment according to quotas.

In Mapai itself, left-wing voices arose, especially from Ahdut HaAvoda which maintained its organizational framework. The retirees united with "Poalei Zion Smol" and "Hashomer Hatzair" to form another political party called MAPAM.

Mapai, led by Ben-Gurion, has been preparing itself for the establishment of the state for about a decade. From the decision to fight against the British mandate, the agreement to the partition plan, to the preparation of the War of Independence, Mapai worked as a ruling party.

Each of these decisions involved a difficult internal battle. The British-oriented Chaim Weizmann harshly criticized the fight against the British. Divisions occurred between those who supported the integrity of the land, those who supported a binational state, and those who denied the establishment of the state.

As the British mandate neared its end, Mapai emerged as the entity in charge. In the precursor to the Knesset, known as the "People's Council," Mapai held the majority, and in the "People's Administration," it had four out of thirteen members.

Before announcing the State of Israel, doubts arose within Mapai and the People's Administration regarding this step's viability and potential rejection. Threats of invasion by Arab armies and wavering support from the United States caused prominent Mapai members to oppose an immediate independence declaration. However, on May 11, 1948, the Mapai central committee met to support an immediate declaration in line with Ben-Gurion's position. The final vote favored declaring the state by a majority of six to four.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Mapai assumed a central position in the Knesset, in the government, in most local authorities, and in many other institutions and organizations.

The main challenge faced by Ben-Gurion and Mapai was transitioning from a voluntary settlement to a State. Transitioning to official institutions and imposing opinions on residents was difficult.

During the first election campaign in January 1949, Mapai won 46 delegates, while Mapam got 19. Herut (right) received 14, and the "United Religious Front" 16. Ben-Gurion made an important decision regarding the first coalition. He formed a coalition that relied on religious and liberal support.

This government was assigned considerable and difficult tasks. The war had to be ended, and while preserving its achievements, it was necessary to absorb hundreds of thousands of immigrants, Holocaust refugees, and expatriates from Arab countries, and establish the governmental institutions of the new state.

In its early years, the country made significant decisions and achievements, such as reparations agreements, economic policies, absorbing mass immigration, and building up the military. Mapai played a central role in making these decisions. Mapai also conducted an effective campaign against Menachem Begin's Herut party.

Mapai's support bases included the Histadrut, the cooperative settlement movement (moshavim), and the collective settlement movement (kibbutzim).

Four Prime Ministers - David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Levi Eshkol, and Golda Meir - were from Mapai.

Mapai’s security policy was also pragmatic compared to its sister parties in Europe, due to Israel's unique security problems. This position made it easier for Mapai to form coalitions with right-wing parties. On matters of religion and state, the party supported maintaining the status quo. This meant integrating religious and ultra-Orthodox concepts and populations into Israeli society while opposing a state governed by Jewish law (Halacha).

In December 1953, David Ben-Gurion announced his retirement from the Prime Ministership to settle in Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev. This step was intended to create a settlement boom in the Negev in the spirit of his vision. Some say that it was a calculated act, to show that the country cannot run without him. In addition, it was thought that he would receive more power upon his return. Moshe Sharet was appointed his replacement.

After almost 2 years of absence, David Ben-Gurion came back to his functions in 1955, until 1963.

In the elections in July 1955, he was the head of Mapai's list. Mapai went to the elections with a program that called for the establishment of Olims, economic security, the settlement of empty areas, the development of agriculture, supervision of armistice agreements, the elimination of transit camps, and maintaining the Histadrut's independence.

After Ben-Gurion's return from Sde Boker, his rule was no longer disputed. Both within and outside his party, no leadership figure has arisen to challenge him. Menachem Begin was not seen as a ruling option in those days and people like Yigal Alon were seen as too young to reach leadership.

In these years, the country has reached many achievements. The Textile Factory (if you know, you know) was built in Dimona, the economic situation improved, and Mapai's situation improved from election to election. In the elections of November 1959, the party reached 47 Knesset members. The slogan "Say yes to the old man" ("Ken LaZaken") conveyed stability and economic security.

In 1961, Ben-Gurion announced his resignation from the Prime Ministership due to "disgraceful business". He felt that he was no longer able to manage the country as in the old days. After his retirement took place in 1963, he recommended Eshkol as his successor as Prime Minister.

In February 1965, a Mapai conference convened to discuss the unification with Ahdut Haavoda and the establishment of a Legal Investigation Committee. As soon as the conference convened, it became clear that Ben-Gurion's people belonged to the "minority" camp, while Eshkol's people were the "majority."

In June 1965, Ben-Gurion announced his retirement from Mapai, and the creation of the List of Israeli Workers (RAFI). The list was joined by "Ben-Gurion youths" like Shimon Peres, Moshe Dayan, Teddy Kolek, Yitzhak Navon, and Yosef Almogi.

In the November 1965 elections, Rafi was severely discriminated against and won only 10 mandates. This was compared to 45 mandates given to the unified list of Mapai and Ahdut Haavoda.

In December 1967, Rafi members decided to join Mapai and Ahdut Haavoda in the "alignment" (Ma'arach) and unite with them into one party - the Labor Party, Haavoda.

The official union occurred in 1968, and Golda Meir was appointed party secretary general.

Mapai ended its time as a single ruling party.



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