The role of ultra-orthodox political parties in Israeli democracy

Howson, Luke
The role of ultra-orthodox political parties in Israeli democracy. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis focuses on the role of ultra-orthodox party Shas within the Israeli state as a means to explore wider themes and divisions in Israeli society. Without underestimating the significance of security and conflict within the structure of the Israeli state, in this thesis the Arab–Jewish relationship is viewed as just one important cleavage within the Israeli state. Instead of focusing on this single cleavage, this thesis explores the complex structure of cleavages at the heart of the Israeli political system. It introduces the concept of a ‘cleavage pyramid’, whereby divisions are of different saliency to different groups. At the top of the pyramid is division between Arabs and Jews, but one rung down from this are the intra-Jewish divisions, be they religious, ethnic or political in nature. In the case of Shas, the religious and ethnic elements are the most salient. The secular–religious divide is a key fault line in Israel and one in which ultra-orthodox parties like Shas are at the forefront. They and their politically secular counterparts form a key division in Israel, and an exploration of Shas is an insightful means of exploring this division further, its history and causes, and how these groups interact politically. Focusing on Shas can also shine a light on the intra-Jewish ethnic politics of Israel. Many of these divisions rest on the history of the Israeli state and the failure of the early state and its Zionist pioneers to create the society they envisioned – a unified, civic-nationalist state with an ethnic but not religious Jewish identity. The ultra-orthodox in Israel represent a self-isolating community whose interaction with the state – while paradoxical in seeking distance from the state – has become that of a sophisticated political actor.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Date: 2014-07 (completed)
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2015 10:48
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 01:30
DOI: 10.17638/02006321