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JEWISH POLITICAL TRADITIONS AND CONTEMPORARY ISRAELI POLITICS

Alan Dowty
Jewish Political Studies Review
Vol. 2, No. 3/4, Israel as a Jewish State (Fall 1990), pp. 55-84
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25834186
Page Count: 30
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
JEWISH POLITICAL TRADITIONS AND CONTEMPORARY ISRAELI POLITICS
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Abstract

The central puzzle of Israeli politics is how democracy has been maintained at all, given the lack of democracy in countries of origin, the deep internal divisions, and the permanent state of war. At least part of the answer lies in understanding Jewish political traditions. The Zionist movement was, in large degree, a revolt against Jewish history. But inevitably Zionists were influenced by an extensive Jewish experience of self-government in the East European shtetl. This experience involved political institutions that were voluntary, inclusive, pluralistic, and contentious. It was also a closed system, facing a hostile external world and not equipped to deal with non-Jews as a group. It was marked by the necessity of bargaining, lack of defined hierarchy, proliferation and influence of organized groups, and the reality of power-sharing, rather than undiluted rule of the majority. These patterns of behavior have much in common with what contemporary political scientists call "consensus" democracy, in contrast to the more common majoritarian model.

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