General Zionists

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General Zionists
ציונים כלליים
Founder Yehoshua Sofersky
Historical leaders Meir Dizengoff,
Israel Rokach,
Peretz Bernstein,
Yosef Sapir
Founded 1922
Dissolved 8 May 1961
Merged into Liberal Party
Headquarters Tel Aviv, Israel
Newspaper HaBoker
Ideology General Zionism
Political position Centre-right
Religion Secular
Election symbol
Politics of Israel
Political parties

The General Zionists (Hebrew: הַצִיּוֹנִים הַכְּלָלִיים, translit. HaTzionim HaKlaliym) were on the center-right position within the Zionist movement and a political party in Israel. The General Zionists supported the leadership of Chaim Weizmann and their views were largely colored by central European culture.[1] Their political arm is an ancestor of the modern-day Likud.


General Zionism initially referred to the beliefs of the majority of members of the Zionist Organization [ZO] who had not joined a specific faction or party and belonged to their countrywide Zionist organizations only.[2]

In 1922, various non-aligned groups and individuals established the Organization of General Zionists as a non-ideological party within the Zionist Organization (later the World Zionist Organization) at a time when the Zionist movement was becoming polarized between Labour Zionists and Revisionist Zionism. Eventually the General Zionists became identified with European liberal and middle class beliefs in private property and capitalism.

In 1929, the General Zionists established a world organization, holding their first conference in 1931. At this conference, rifts opened up between the conservative right wing and those who held more moderate views.[3] They were divided over social issues, economics and labour issues (e.g. the Histadrut). The "General Zionists A" favored the economic policies of Labour Zionism and were supportive of Chaim Weizmann's compromising approach to relations with the British. The "General Zionists B" were skeptical of socialism and more outspoken against British policy in Palestine.[4]

After the independence of the State of Israel, the gap between the two groups widened. The General Zionists A formed the Progressive Party, won 5 seats in 1949 Knesset elections, and entered the Mapai-led governing coalition. The General Zionists B, running as the General Zionists, won 7 seats and chose to remain in the opposition.[4] In the years following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the General Zionists moved towards the right in opposition to the hegemony of Mapai and other Labour Zionist movements in Israeli politics.

In 1936 the General Zionists established a daily newspaper, HaBoker, which was edited for the first ten years of its existence by Peretz Bernstein. It ceased publication in 1965.

Political activity in Israel[edit]

The General Zionists entered the elections for the first Knesset in 1949. They won 5.2% of the vote and seven seats, and were not included in either of David Ben-Gurion's coalition governments.

The 1951 elections were a huge success, with the party winning 20 seats, making it the second largest in the Knesset. The party was enlarged soon after the elections when the Sephardim and Oriental Communities party and the Yemenite Association merged into it (though the one Yemenite Association MK left the party again before the end of the session). Although they were not included in the coalition for the third government, they were brought into the fourth government after Ben-Gurion had sacked the Ultra-orthodox parties, Agudat Israel and Agudat Israel Workers, over the dispute over religious education that had brought down the previous government. They were also included in Moshe Sharett's fifth government, but not the sixth.

In the 1955 elections the party slumped to 13 seats, and were not included in either of the third Knesset's coalition governments.

A further slump to eight seats in the 1959 elections and exclusion from the coalition made the party rethink their strategy. Eventually the party decided to merge with the 6-seat Progressive Party to form the Liberal Party. Nevertheless, the party helped bring down the government in 1961 when it and Herut tabled a motion of no confidence in the government over the Lavon Affair.

In the 1961 elections the new Israel Liberal Party won 17 seats, making it the third largest in the Knesset. During the session, ten MKs (mostly former General Zionists) merged with the right-wing Herut to form Gahal while the other seven (most from the Progressive Party) set up the Independent Liberals. Gahal later became Likud.

Knesset election results[edit]

Election year Party Leader # of overall votes  % of overall vote # of overall seats
1949 Israel Rokach 22,661 5.2 (#5)
7 / 120
1951 Israel Rokach 111,394 16.2 (#2)
20 / 120
Increase 13
1955 Israel Rokach 87,099 10.2 (#3)
13 / 120
Decrease 7
1959 Yosef Sapir 59,700 6.2 (#5)
8 / 120
Decrease 5

See also[edit]


External links[edit]