Politics in Israel: The Second Republic (second ed.)
by Asher Arian
Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2005. 447 pp. $35.95, paper.
Reviewed by Suzanne Gershowitz
American Enterprise Institute
Middle East Quarterly
Many academics focus upon Israel only in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arian, a political science professor at Haifa University, goes far beyond, describing in-depth the functioning of the Israeli political system with emphasis, in this second edition of Politics in Israel, on the five years since Israel's repeal of direct prime ministerial elections.
Arian is not clear about the parameters of the "second republic," but it appears to refer to the period following the 1967 war when a national unity government allowed former Irgun leader Menachim Begin to re-enter mainstream Israeli politics, an event which would help break Labor's monopoly. The background he provides on Israeli political machinations makes Politics in Israel essential reading.
Politics in Israel offers an exhaustive picture of Israeli society, providing statistical analyses of the country's economy and population, tracing the evolution of its political parties, and discussing the relationship between Judaism and Israeli politics. Further, Arian has structured his study for ease of use. Rather than chronicle Israel politics from their start, he divided Politics in Israel into chapters on the political elite, political parties, electoral behavior, public policy, administration, and local government. Statistical tables detail everything from basic election results, to previous professions of the Knesset (parliament) members, to public perceptions of each party's commitment to major issues.
Rather than obfuscate with detail, Arian reveals the idiosyncrasies of the Israeli political system often unnoticed by journalists and ordinary citizens, such as how party politics functions in a system of government built around multiparty coalitions. He uses comparison with the U.S. Congress to explain different perceptions of lobbying and the unique role of Israel's military in its political society. He shows how the Knesset often operates with little transparency, suggesting that Israeli politics are best considered as "being of the closet and not of the caucus."
Related Topics: Israel & Zionism | Suzanne Gershowitz | Fall 2005 MEQ
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