Mapai (Hebrew: מפא"י, an acronym for Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisrael (Hebrew: מפלגת פועלי ארץ ישראל), lit. Workers' Party of Eretz Yisrael) was a left-wing political party in Israel, and was the dominant force in Israeli politics until its merger into the Israeli Labor Party in 1968.
The party was founded on 5 January 1930 by the merger of the Hapoel Hatzair founded by A. D. Gordon and the original Ahdut HaAvoda (founded in 1919 from the right, more moderate, wing of the Marxist Zionist socialist Poale Zion led by David Ben-Gurion). In the early 1920s the Labor Zionist movement had founded the Histadrut Union, which dominated the Hebrew settlement economy and infrastructure, later making Mapai the dominant political faction in Zionist politics. It was also responsible for the founding of Hashomer and Haganah, the first two armed Jewish groups who secured the people and property of the new and emerging Jewish communities. By the early 1930s, David Ben-Gurion had taken over the party, and had become de-facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine (known as the Yishuv).
Due to its role in emerging victorious and independent from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the party was rewarded with large support in Israel's first elections in 1949, winning 35.7% of the vote (well ahead of second-placed Mapam's 14.7%) and 46 of the 120 seats. Ben-Gurion became Prime Minister and formed a coalition with the United Religious Front, the Progressive Party, the Sephardim and Oriental Communities and the Democratic List of Nazareth (an Israeli Arab party associated with Mapai).
The 1951 elections saw a further increase in support to 37.3% of the vote (47 seats) despite the country's economic problems. Ben-Gurion again formed the government with the support of Mizrachi, Hapoel HaMizrachi, Agudat Israel, Agudat Israel Workers and the three Israeli Arab parties associated with Mapai, the Democratic List for Israeli Arabs, Progress and Work and Agriculture and Development. However, he shocked the nation by resigning on 6 December 1953 in order to settle in the small Negev kibbutz of Sde Boker, and was replaced by Moshe Sharett.
The 1955 elections saw the first drop in support, as the party recorded only 32.2% of the vote (40 seats), though still well ahead of the second-placed Herut (12.6%). Ben Gurion returned as Prime Minister, and formed a coalition with the National Religious Front (which later changed its name to the National Religious Party), Mapam, Ahdut HaAvoda, and the three Israeli Arab parties, the Democratic List for Israeli Arabs, Progress and Work and Agriculture and Development. Later the Progressive Party was also added.
In contrast to the previous one, the 1959 election saw a surge in support, as the party recorded its best electoral performance, taking 38.2% of the vote and 47 seats. Ben-Gurion again invited the National Religious Party, Mapam, Ahdut HaAvoda, the Progressive Party and the three Israeli Arab parties, Progress and Development, Cooperation and Brotherhood and Agriculture and Development to form the coalition.
The Lavon Affair which brought down the government in 1961 probably contributed to the party's relatively poor performance in the elections in the same year, as it picked up only 34.7% of the vote and 42 seats. Although Ben-Gurion formed a strong coalition with the National Religious Party, Ahdut HaAvoda, Agudat Israel Workers, Cooperation and Brotherhood and Progress and Development, two events during the fifth Knesset led to Mapai's reducing dominance.
Firstly, Ben-Gurion resigned as head of the party citing personal reasons, though in reality he was upset at a perceived lack of support from colleagues. He set up a new party, Rafi, taking with him seven other Mapai members. Secondly, the two major right-wing opposition parties, Herut and the Liberal Party had merged into Gahal. This meant by the end of the Knesset session, Mapai had only 34 seats to Gahal's 27.
The party's response to the unprecedented strength of the opposition was to seek support from other parties with similar ideologies. The result was an alliance with Ahdut HaAvoda to form the Labor Alignment before the 1965 election. The new party won 36.7% of the vote and 45 seats, and comfortably beat Gahal (26 seats). On 23 January 1968 Mapai, Ahdut HaAvoda and Rafi merged into the Israeli Labor Party and ceased to exist as an individual entities.
- Kowalski, Werner. Geschichte der sozialistischen arbeiter-internationale: 1923 - 19. Berlin: Dt. Verl. d. Wissenschaften, 1985. p. 315
- Worker's Party of Eretz Yisrael (Mapai) Knesset website