ABSTRACT

Introduction Israel is a parliamentary democracy that has been ruled by multiparty coalition governments since its establishment in 1948. The party system is highly fragmented, and the number of parties winning representation in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) has never been less than nine. The Knesset’s 120 members are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system in a single nationwide constituency. Israeli society is very heterogeneous, and many socio-political cleavages (national, ethnic, religious, veterans and immigrants) are refl ected in the party system, resulting in a slew of parties that represent different political sub-cultures (Kimmerling 1999). Despite this, until 2006 all governments were headed by only two parties, separately, or, in some instances, jointly: the centre-left Labour Party and the centre-right Likud. That year, a new party, Kadima – founded just months before by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Likud) and other politicians from Likud, Labour and other parties – swept into power and led the government until 2009.