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Liberalism in Israel

Liberalism has played a role in the political history of Israel since Israel's founding. Several liberal political parties have claimed substantial popular support, mainly proved by having representation in the Knesset. While liberalism is usually suspicious of nationalism, Jewish liberals in Israel generally support some form of Zionism.

A long-time liberal, anti-clerical and pro-free market party was Shinui, a member of the Liberal International. Prior to that, conservative liberals (see General Zionists, Liberal Party), were founding members of the Likud, the country's main conservative party, while social liberals (see Progressive Party, Independent Liberals) were integrated in the social-democratic Labor Party. Current liberal (and liberal Zionist) parties are Yesh Atid, Hosen and Kulanu. Additionally, there is the (right-)libertarian Zehut.

By contrast, Balad draws upon liberal values in its aim to eliminate discrimination against Arab citizens and redefine Israel as a state for all its citizens rather than a "Jewish and democratic state", but it is a secular party rather than a liberal one.


From General Zionists to Liberal Party

  • 1922: Centrists in the World Zionist Organization form the General Zionists.
  • 1931: The General Zionists split in "Faction A" and "Faction B".
  • 1945: Factions A and B of the General Zionists merge.
  • 1951: The party wins 16.2% of the vote and 20 seats in the general election.
  • 1961: The party merges with the Progressive Party (PP) to become the Liberal Party (LP), which wins 13.6% of the vote and 17 seats in the general election.
  • 1965: The LP splits with the conservative majority joining Herut to form Gahal, eventually becoming Likud, and the leftist faction forming the Independent Liberals.
  • 1988: The LP and Herut formally merge transforming Likud from an electoral coalition to a unitary political party.

From Progressive Party to Independent Liberals

Shinui, Democratic Movement, Shinui, Hetz

  • 1973: Amnon Rubinstein forms Shinui.
  • 1976: Shinui merges with other minor liberal parties to become the Democratic Movement for Change (Dash).
  • 1977: Dash wins 11.6% of the vote and 15 seats in the general election.
  • 1978: Dash splits into the Democratic Movement and the Movement for Change and Initiative.
  • 1981: The Movement for Change and Initiative renames itself Shinui.
  • 1988: Shinui is renamed Shinui–Center Party.
  • 1992: The party merges with Mapam and Ratz to form Meretz, a social-democratic party.
  • 1998: Avraham Poraz leads a split from Meretz and recreates Shinui as an independent party.
  • 1999: Tommy Lapid is invited by Poraz to head Shinui.
  • 2003: The party wins 12.3% of the vote and 15 seats in the general election.
  • 2006: Lapid leaves Shinui and Poraz forms Hetz.
  • 2006: Both Shinui and Hetz fail to win any seats in the general election.

Kadima and Hatnuah

Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Zehut, Hosen and Telem

  • 2012: Yair Lapid, Tommy's son, launches Yesh Atid. Poraz allows Tzipi Livni to use the Hetz's infrastructure to base her new party, Hatnuah.
  • 2013: In the general election Yesh Atid wins 14.3% and 19 seats.
  • 2014: Moshe Kahlon, a splinter from Likud, launches Kulanu.
  • 2015: In the general election Yesh Atid is reduced to 8.8% of the vote and 11 seats, while Kulanu enters with 7.5% and 10 seats. Some time after the election, Moshe Feiglin leads his Manhigut Yehudit faction out of Likud and forms the (right-)libertarian Zehut party.
  • 2018: Benny Gantz launches Hosen, a broad centrist party whose economic goals are liberal.
  • 2019: In the run-up of the general election Yesh Atid, Hosen and the newly-formed Telem join forces into a united list called Blue and White, while Hatnuah announces withdrawal. The list wins 26.1% and 35 seats (15 for Yesh Atid, 14 for Hosen, 5 for Telem and one for an independent), while Zehut 2.7% and no seats.

See also