Political parties

Authored by: Hayim Katsman , Guy Ben-Porat

The Routledge Handbook to Religion and Political Parties

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138500464
eBook ISBN: 9781351012478
Adobe ISBN:


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Religion is part of Israel’s political landscape, playing an important and disputed role in both private and public life. Israeli politics are exceptional for having so many religious parties all claiming to represent the same religion (Neuberger, 1997). Moreover, the religious parties’ influence on Israeli politics is disproportionate to their real power as a social group (Arian, 1985: 136), often beyond the size of their constituencies, enabling them not only to protect sectorial needs and demands but also to actively engage in public policy making on issues that pertain to the wider society and the state. The formal power of religious parties and institutions in Israel and the non-separation of church and state, de jure and de facto, is unique and different from most democracies. This can be explained by the fact that a large number of Israelis maintain their attachment to the Jewish religion in beliefs and practices, and many are becoming more religious in various ways. Moreover, the consensus among the Jewish majority that Israel is and must remain a ‘Jewish state’ guarantees the all but permanent importance of religion in public life. Religious parties in Israel, like elsewhere, differ in the way they relate to state and society. In this chapter, we describe three major religious political parties in Israel, their histories and transformations, and their impact on Israeli politics and society.

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