Israel Labor Party

Israel's Labor Party, (Mifleget Ha'Avoda in Hebrew), was established in 1968 when predecessor Mapai united with the Ahdut Ha'Avoda and Rafi parties.

Defined as social democratic, Labor has long been the dominant center-left party in Israel, although its popularity among voters has steadily waned over the past decade.

The Labor Party - and its various previous incarnations - was for many years the single hegemonic political party in Israel, leading every government from 1948 until Menachem Begin's Likud first came to power in 1977.

The past decade has seen a decline in Labor's influence in Israeli politics. In the 2009 general elections, the party, led once again by former prime minister Ehud Barak, won just 13 Knesset seats, making it the fourth largest political party in Israel behind Likud, Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu.

Labor "supports the policy of social pluralism and equality, and since the 1990's, a free market “with a soul' economic policy." In the political arena, despite most of its leaders having a military background, Labor has traditionally led a pragmatic, more compromising approach to solving Israel's geo-political issues with neighboring Arab countries and the Palestinians.

Past leaders of the party include David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and Amir Peretz. Barak, the current leader, took the party to a decisive victory in 1999, ending Benjamin Netanyahu's first tenure as prime minister.

But Barak's defeat at the hands of Ariel Sharon just two years later marked the start of Labor's decline, which has persisted to this day. The establishment of Kadima by Sharon in 2005 drew several prominent Labor lawmakers away from the party, and also pulled in some of its voters, who felt comfortable with Sharon in light of his decision to end Israel's presence in the Gaza Strip.

Following his electoral defeat in 2001, Barak disappeared from Israeli politics for several years, only to reemerge in 2005. In 2007, he defeated then party chief Amir Peretz in a leadership race, and reassumed the post of Labor leader. His decision to take Labor into Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-led government following the 2009 general elections has led many to view the party as having lost its way, and created internal tensions.

These tensions led to the resignation of prominent party MK Ophir Pines-Paz in January 2010. Pines-Paz was part of a group of Labor “rebels” who considered leaving Labor to form a new party more compatible with what they believe to be Labor's true platform.