This is an election poster issued by the Mapai party for the 1955 Israeli elections. The poster features a large photograph of David Ben-Gurion staring off to the right. He has a serious, pensive, look on his face and his white, wispy hair figures prominently in the photograph. The bottom third of the poster has a blue background with white letters – colours reminiscent of the national flag. On the left-hand side is a large aleph, the letter which represented Mapai in the ballot. The text reads “For Reliable Leadership,” suggesting that the country needs a strong, trusted leader like David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father.
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Mapai – Mapai (an acronym for Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisrael—The Workers Party of the Land of Israel) was the dominant political party in Israel until it ceased to exist as an individual party and merged with others to form the Labour party in 1968. Established in 1930, Mapai’s base of support was the Histadrut (Labour Union), the kibbutzim, and the moshavim. Mapai was a socialist-Zionist party and focused on meeting the needs of the working class including health care, employment, youth groups, and sport. David Ben-Gurion was Mapai’s most prominent figure, serving twice as prime minister (1948–1953 and 1955–1963). In later years, additional Mapai leaders held the position of prime minister: Moshe Sharett, Levi Eshkol, and Golda Meir. The party was seriously damaged by the Lavon Affair, a failed undercover operation that brought down the government in 1961. In 1968 Mapai joined with the parties Ahdut HaAvoda and Rafi to form the Labour party and led the Israeli government until Menachem Begin’s Likud party came to power in 1977. Mapai’s election symbol was the Hebrew letter aleph.
David Ben-Gurion – David Ben-Gurion is considered the father of the State of Israel and was its first prime minister. He was born in Poland in 1886 ,where he joined the socialist-Zionist group Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion). He immigrated to Israel in 1906 and became involved in creating the first agricultural worker’s commune – the precursor to the kibbutz –and Hashomer (the Watchman), a Jewish self-defence group. Ben-Gurion served as the first secretary general of the Histradrut, the trade union movement. He became the leader of the Mapai (Workers Party of the Land of Israel) party in 1930 and led the fight against the British White Paper which limited Jewish immigration and settlement in Israel. After the United Nations vote on the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947, Ben-Gurion began the work of planning the infrastructure of the new state. In 1948, after he declared the creation of the State of Israel, Ben-Gurion became the first prime minister and defence minister. During his time as prime minister, the infrastructure of Israel was developed, large numbers of immigrants – Holocaust survivors and Jews fleeing Arab countries – were absorbed, and Israel’s economic and military status was secured. In 1953 Ben-Gurion left government and retired, with his wife, Paula, to Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev. He returned to political life in 1955 as defence minister and then as prime minister. Ben-Gurion resigned as prime minister in June 1963, although he remained involved in politics until he retired once again in June 1970 and returned to Sde Boker, where he passed away in 1973.
Elections in Israel – Israel is a democratic country, and general elections for the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, take place, according to the law, once every four years. The nationwide elections are based on a multi-party, proportional representation system. The legal voting age in Israel is 18, and all Israeli citizens from sectors may vote and be elected. Using voting slips with the initials of the parties, citizens vote for their preferred party and not for individual candidates. The 120 seats in the Knesset are then assigned proportionally to the parties according to the number of votes received. After the elections, the president of Israel chooses the leader of the largest party or of the party that is most likely to form a viable coalition government. This leader then forms a government, the Knesset gives it a vote of confidence, and the leader then becomes prime minister.
1955 Israeli General Elections – The elections for the 3rd Knesset were held on July 26, 1955. This campaign saw the return of David Ben-Gurion, after he had left political life and moved to his kibbutz, Sde Boker. Ben-Gurion’s return occurred following the Lavon Affair, which caused turmoil in the ruling party. These elections took place at the time of another scandal, the Kastner Affair, in which Israel Kastner, an important member of Mapai was accused of cooperating with the Nazis in Budapest. The election campaign was relatively turbulent, with bombs placed near General Zionist election meetings and the home of the Tel Aviv mayor, Israel Rokach. After Mapai’s seven years in power, much of the campaign was directed against the party, focusing on corruption and the centralist nature of the government. Other issues that were featured in the campaign were the reparations from Germany and the negative attitude of the government towards the immigrants. The main adversaries in this campaign were Mapai and the General Zionists. The elections resulted in a large decrease in the General Zionists’ representation, while the Herut party doubled its strength.