General elections are a highly significant occasion in the life of a democratic society. In Israel's parliamentary regime, elections for the Knesset are of great import. The lively campaign that characterizes the weeks and months leading up to election day itself nurtures Israel's democratic culture.
The vitality of Israeli society has been evident in each of the nineteen election campaigns that have taken place since the establishment of the state, from the elections for the Constituent Assembly in 1949 to the current 2012 race. The dynamic, multi-party, polarized countenance of the Israeli political system is manifest on a daily basis in the parliamentary and public realms, but elections and the accompanying propaganda bring this energy to the fore.
Election propaganda evokes deep-seated responses grounded in generations of the many upheavals and transitions and momentous events that have occurred in the life of the Jewish people and the history of this region, both pre-and post-state.
For the most part, elections are not recorded in the annals of higher culture such as literature or art, but in ephemera that attest to the mainstream nature of the event. These manifestations take the form of print, radio and television propaganda, and in more recent years, Internet propaganda. They constitute an authentic reflection of the zeitgeist: the conflicts of opinion, the emotional intensity, modes of expression and even changing linguistic trends and current slang. They revitalize the past, eliciting nostalgia from the older generation and curiosity from the young. To shore up this effect we have included relevant press offerings and photographs from each election campaign, along with information about the results.
The issues that dominate the Israeli public agenda are manifest in election propaganda. We have elected to focus on four such issues: the Arab-Israeli conflict, including wars and peace agreements; economic policy, from Socialism to free enterprise; the internal tension inherent in Israel's status as a Jewish state; and various social issues that have arisen at different times, including ethnic, nationalist and class-based conflicts.
Alongside these general perspectives, we attempt to depict the unique character of each election campaign, its key figures and central events. We also note the events and individuals on the periphery of each election, to add something of the flavor of the time.
Over the next two months we will continue to add materials to this site, featuring a different election campaign at any given time. Elections are points in time at which multiple expressions of Israeli public sentiment are in evidence. The materials preserved by the National Library and other partners in this project enable us to give the public a full, rich, and varied portrait of significant events in the Israeli national memory.