The selection methods of party leaders in Israel have gone through a gradual shift during the last 30 years. Like parties in several other democracies (Canada, United Kingdom, Japan), the major Israeli parties have changed their internal distribution of power to give their members a role in candidate and leadership selection. In Israel, as elsewhere, among the reasons for this reform was the desire to reduce the oligarchic tendencies of parties by creating a participatory revolution and by providing the rank-and-file members a chance to make a difference. This study maps the various methods used by Israeli parties for selecting their leaders and asks what the positive and negative consequences of the opening of the selection process are. The first section presents the various methods used by parties for selecting their leaders. The following three sections deal with the gradual process of democratization in leadership selection that occurred in the two major Israeli parties, and in other parties. The final section discusses the consequences of this democratization and tries to assess whether there is an ideal method for selecting party leaders.
Ofer Kenig, Michael Philippov, and Gideon Rahat
Party membership is in decline in Israel. This article analyzes the main characteristics of party members in three of the largest parties in Israel: Kadima, Likud, and Labor. Party members in Israel share similar features with party members in other countries: they are older, economically better off than the average voter, they are more highly educated than an average voter, and they are more likely to be male than female. This comparison between the members population and the voters population also demonstrates that Arabs are over-represented in Kadima and Labor while religious people are over-represented in Kadima and especially Likud. Most party members claim that ideological motivations led them to join a particular party, yet they suspect that the other members are motivated by more instrumental reasons. They expect the party to act cohesively but at the same time clearly support deeper intraparty democratization. They are also rather passive, hardly engaging in party activities.