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Maoz Rosenthal

Parliaments channel legislation efforts and oversight functions to parliamentary committees in order for them to transform policy ideas into agreed-upon policies and then monitor their implementation. Committees play a major role in the policymaking process when they possess agenda-setting powers over the bills they process and through their employment of oversight capacities. The rules that construct checks and balances between the government and Israel’s Knesset potentially minimize the Knesset committees’ agenda-setting influence. Nevertheless, Knesset committee chairs strategically use their institutional powers to affect committee deliberations through bargaining and dynamic agenda setting. Consequently, Knesset committees play a major role in the policy process due to bargaining rather than through institutional rules.

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Benyamin Neuberger

This article explores the ideological underpinnings of the major Jewish political camps in Israel and the Yishuv—the left, the Orthodox, the national right, the bourgeois center—and evaluates the extent to which they are compatible with liberal democracy as commonly understood in the West. It also analyzes quasi-democratic and non-democratic aspects of older Jewish traditions based on the Torah, the Talmud, and the Halakhah. While the history of Zionism and the Zionist movement contained definite democratic components, Israel’s political system was shaped by a range of anti-democratic traditions whose resonance is still felt today.

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Mordechai Kremnitzer and Shiri Krebs

Democracy is not just about free and fair elections. It requires at least some minimal substantial guarantees, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, that formulate and enable free choice of autonomous and equal agents. These notions are well founded in Israeli constitutional law, but in recent years it seems that this basic understanding of the democratic process is weakening, especially as reflected in the actions of the Knesset. Several recent examples of Knesset legislation processes suggest that Israeli democratic culture is being eroded, as some of democracy’s fundamental notions are abandoned in favor of national-chauvinism and intolerance.

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Anat Maor

Very little research has been conducted on the functioning of the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) in general and on private members' legislation in particular. This article contributes to the perception of the role of the legislator as political initiator in modern parliamentarism.

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Anat Herbst

This study applies critical discourse analysis to examine the relationship between the imagery and the legitimacy attached to single mothers, as well as the social policy designed for them. The correlation between images, legitimacy, and policy was examined during three decades (the 1970s, 1990s, and 2000s) of extensive legislation pertaining to single-parent mothers. The data have been drawn from a diversity of sources, including Knesset debates, Knesset committee discussions, women's organizations, the media, and semi-structured interviews. The study shows that welfare policy necessarily encapsulates cultural perceptions and basic assumptions pertaining to certain segments of society. These beliefs anchor justifications for the expansion or limitation of social rights and reveal how the development of social rights is linked to cultural and social apprehension.

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Yechiam Weitz

This article deals with the disappearance of Menachem Begin, the leader and the chairman of the Herut movement and the sixth Prime Minister of Israel (1977-1983). He disappeared from the political arena for about half a year: from the defeat of his party in the elections of the Second Knesset (26 July 1951) until the debate in the Knesset about the reparations from West Germany. Four central topics will be discussed: (1) the reasons for his disappearance; (2) his whereabouts and activities during that period; (3) the reason for his return to the political arena and the connection between his return and the debate about the reparations; and (4) the significance of this story for Begin's biography.

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Yitzhak Navon

On 17 March 1996 the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed a law to set up two national authorities, one for Yiddish culture and the other for Ladino culture. Yiddish is a 1,000– year old language based on German with words and idioms from Hebrew, Aramaic and additional European languages. Ladino is approximately 500 years old and is based on Spanish, with words and idioms from Hebrew, Aramaic, Northern African languages, as well as Balkan languages and from other countries once under the domination of the Ottoman Empire.

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Yechiam Weitz

This article examines the major changes in the Israeli political arena, on both the left and right, in the two years before the 1967 War. The shift was marked by the establishment in 1965 of the right-wing Gahal (the Herut-Liberal bloc) and of the Labor Alignment, the semi-merger of Israel’s two main left-wing parties, Mapai and Ahdut HaAvodah. Some dissatisfied Mapai members broke away from the Alignment and formed a new party, Rafi, under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion. They did not gain nearly enough Knesset seats to take power in the November 1965 election, but Rafi did become part of the emergency national unity government that was formed in June 1967, due largely to the weak position of Levi Eshkol as prime minister. This enabled Rafi’s Moshe Dayan to assume the minister of defense position on the eve of the Six-Day War, which began on 5 June 1967.

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Yael Braudo

Starting in the early 1950s, Israeli women's organizations persistently promoted legislation that aimed to ensure wives' just share in marital property, until in 1973 the Knesset enacted the Spouses (Property Relations) Law. This remarkable struggle was then forgotten. The long history of this law as told here, along with parallel Israeli legislative and judicial developments related to property relations between spouses, reveals the political activities of women's organizations during the decades in which it is generally believed that they neglected their political-feminist agenda. It also discloses the substantial gap between the organizations' vision of a community property regime throughout marriage and the regime of property separation enacted into law. This case study sheds light on how social organizations attempt to promote legal reforms and on the consequences of their compromises.

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Sylvie Fogiel-Bijaoui

In 2010, the Knesset passed the Spousal Covenant Act, which enables Israelis 'lacking religious affiliation' to marry and divorce in Israel. Using the 'twin tolerations' theory, I present the process and the actors involved in the legislation, pointing out that in Israel the twin tolerations are reflected in the so-called status quo. On the basis of that analysis, I argue that the spousal covenant, initially aimed at solving the problem of all individuals forbidden to marry in Israel, but especially 'non-Halakhic' Jews from the FSU, ended up as a marginalizing law, excluding those non-Halakhic Jews from the Jewish-Israeli collective. I further argue that non-Halakhic Jews from the FSU no longer contest the Israeli religious regime of inclusion and instead use the 'established bypasses'—cohabitation and civil marriage abroad—both to get married and to be part of the national collective.