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Glossary of Terms

Blocs

Groups of political parties that hold similar views on issues of primary importance such as the fate of the territories captured by Israel in 1967. Blocs play a critical role in Israeli politics where forming a stable coalition from among a number of political parties is the key to successful rule.

Camp David Accords

The landmark 1978 agreement between Israel and Egypt that paved the way for peace between the two countries. Named after the twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David in Maryland, USA  between U.S. President Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The Camp David Accords are the framework for Peace in the Middle East and Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Camp David Summit

The ill-fated July 2000 summit meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat convened at Camp David by President Bill Clinton. At the summit, Barak offered a far-reaching proposal that was rejected by Arafat.

Disengagement

The common name of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria, which saw Israel withdraw from 25 communities. Israelis had high-hopes that the Disengagement would jump start the peace process,  but soon after the Disengagement was complete mortars and rockets were fired on Israeli communities and Hamas won in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council and subsequently ousted the Palestinian Authority altogether from the Strip. Israel has since fought Hamas in three major battles. 

Druze

The Druze form a religious minority in Israel of more than 130,000, mostly residing in the north of the country. The Druze are Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel and serve in the Israel Defense Forces just as most citizens do in Israel. Members of the community have attained top positions in Israeli politics and public service. The number of Druze parliament members usually exceeds their proportion in the Israeli population, and they are integrated within several political parties.

Gaza Strip

A 360 square kilometer strip of land at the southwest border of Israel adjacent to the Sinai Peninsula that is home to approximately 1.8 million Palestinians, and until 2005's Disengagement, approximately 8000 Israelis. As a part of the Oslo Accords, the responsibility for Gaza's administration was transferred to the Palestinian Authority in May of 1994. After the Disengagement, Hamas took over the territory entirely, and the area has served as a launching ground for countless attacks on the Israeli communities surrounding the Strip. In an effort to stop the attacks, Israel has fought three major battles with Hamas in 2008, 2012 and 2014. 

Golan Heights

A portion of strategic highland at the northwestern tip of Israel captured from Syria in the Six Day War and annexed by Israel in 1981. Due to the significant strategic value of the Heights, and since Syrians used the Heights to attack Israeli communities in the valley below, Israel has always been wary of relinquishing the territory for promises of peace from the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Given the brutal civil war that was waged over the last years within earshot of those living on the Golan, the idea of relinquishing this area has been effectively removed from Israeli political discourse. Over 20,000 Israelis live in the area along with thousands of Druze citizens of Israel.

Green Line

The 1949 armistice line agreed to between Israel and Jordan at the end of Israel's War of Independence. The Green Line is significant since it was the border between Israel and Jordan from 1948 - 1967. From 1967 - 1993, the area between the Green Line and the Jordan River (Judea and Samaria or the West Bank) was administered by Israel. In 1993, the Oslo Accords granted the Palestinian Authority limited self-rule over large tracts of the West Bank.

Intifada (I & II)

Arabic for "shaking off" referring to the violent uprisings against Israel by Palestinians. The first Intifada started in December of 1987 in the Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers and civilians in Gaza and the West Bank faced firebombs, stones and occasional "live fire" by Palestinians wishing to rid themselves of Israeli rule. The first Intifada ended at the outbreak of the Gulf War in January 1991. Ironically, the second Intifada started in late September 2000 - at which time the Palestinian Authority ruled 98% of the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip - after Arafat rejected an offer of Palestinian sovereignty from Israel. For over five years, the Palestinians targeted Israeli civilians and soldiers in terror attacks and battles and have employed high-powered military rifles, hand grenades, suicide bombings, car bombs, roadside explosives and Palestinian manufactured mortars and rockets. The violence has resulted in over 1000 Israeli deaths - the majority, casualties of terror attacks directed at civilians.

Israeli Arabs

Israeli citizens of Arab or Bedouin descent. Israeli Arabs make up about 20% of Israel's population and enjoy full rights as witnessed by their representation in all areas of society including elected members of the Knesset, a Supreme Court justice and officers in the IDF.

Judea and Samaria

Also known as the "West Bank" of the Jordan River. Areas captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. Approximately 2.1 million Palestinians and approximately 235,000 Israelis live in Judea and Samaria which measures 5860 square kilometers. Many voters on Israel's political right, along with many religious Jews, view these areas as the heart of ancient Israel and therefore wish to maintain control over the area based on historic and security rationales. This is the area discussed when speaking about future unilateral withdrawals.

Knesset 

Literally, "place of gathering" the Knesset is the name of Israel's parliament. The Knesset has 120 seats and political parties vie for these seats in national elections. After elections, the largest party has the right to form a ruling coalition of at least 61 seats with smaller parties. The largest parties try to form as wide a coalition as possible in order to mitigate the influence that the smaller coalition partners have in directing policy or toppling the government by pulling out of the coalition over policy disputes. For more information, visit the Knesset web site: www.knesset.gov.il.

Law of Return

Legislation in Israel that allows Jews throughout the world to return to their ancient homeland - Israel - and receive full citizenship. The law's definition of "who is a Jew" is controversial inasmuch as it is not in accordance with Jewish religious law (halacha) - a fact that exacerbates religious/secular tensions in Israel. Additionally, the law has come under attack by detractors who call into question the historic need for a state for the Jewish people.

Lists

The bodies which participate in the Knesset elections are called "lists." A list must consist of at least one registered party, but it could also contain several parties. 

Movements

The law does not recognize movements as distinct legal entities. However, a movement may register as a party, a non-profit organization, a company, or as any other legally recognized body. In other words, "movement" is simply a word also used as part of a name ("youth movement," "Herut Movement"), but by itself has no legal standing.

National Camp

The bloc of conservative political parties. Many in this camp reject outright the notion of a Palestinian state on security grounds arguing that it will only further destabilize the region and ultimately lead to a regional conflict. Members support the settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and believe that unilateral withdrawal by Israel is a policy that will invite increased terror and violence.

National Unity Government

Historically, a National Unity Government was coalition formed by the two largest political parties, Labor and Likud, but refers to a coalition in which the larger parties of differing outlooks agree to govern together. National Unity coalitions are usually formed during times of national economic or security crises. Advantages of a national unity government include the ability to grapple with serious issues with a united front.

Oslo Accords

The 1993 agreement of mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO and the ensuing peace process that led to the transfer of land from Israel to the Palestinian Authority. 

Parliamentary Groups

Once a list (see above) is elected to the Knesset, it becomes a Parliamentary Group, even if the distinct parties in it continue to function individually on the outside. According to the Parties Financing Law (1973), the Knesset Committee may, after the elections, recognize a new parliamentary group in any of the following situations: One which broke off from an existing parliamentary group; a new parliamentary group which is made up of Knesset members who were originally part of other groups; or a new parliamentary group which is created through the unification of two existing parliamentary groups. The law also fixes limitations on the recognition of new parliamentary groups. Usually, before upcoming elections, there is intensified activity setting up new parliamentary groups because the financing of parties depends partly on the number of seats belonging to the corresponding parliamentary groups in the current Knesset

Parties

According to the Parties Law (1992), a party is defined as a group of people who have come together in order to pursue legal political or social goals, and to bring about their representation in the Knesset. Since the passing of this law, there are clear regulations regarding the establishment of parties, their registration with the Parties Registrar, their institutions, assets, activities and finances. The law also determines the limitations on a party's potential registration. The following prohibitions are included in these limitations:

  • Any rejection (in the party's goals or activities) of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.

  • Any incitement to racism.

  • Any hint of a cover for illegal activity.

Partition Plan

The 1947 United Nations' plan to divide the western portion of British Mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The plan - formally adopted by the United Nations on November 29, 1947 - was accepted by representatives of the Jewish community, paving the way for the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The Arab side rejected the proposal, opting instead to fight the nascent Jewish state.

Peace Camp

The bloc of left-leaning Israeli political parties who vigorously support negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, towards the goal of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. 

Pre-1967 Borders

The borders of Israel from the 1948 War of Independence until the 1967 Six Day War. Arab and far left political parties feel that Israel's return to the "pre-1967 borders" is a prerequisite for achieving comprehensive peace. Many political parties view the return to these highly indefensible borders as unacceptable and advocate maintaining Israeli control over some large settlement blocs, elevated areas overlooking strategic sites and portions of the Jordan Valley. Also, see Green Line above.

Right of Return

The notion that millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Israeli Independence War should have the right to return to houses and land inside Israel. Arab parties notwithstanding, all Israeli political parties - including the far-left parties - reject this "right" as the undoing of the State of Israel. Israeli governments have allowed return of some 100,000 refugees under a family reunification program (although this policy is coming under increased scrutiny as there have been cases of terrorists who have gained entry into Israel via this program). It was due to Arafat's insistence on this "right" - along with issue of Jerusalem - that the Camp David summit of July 2000 failed.

Security Fence

A physical barrier designed to prevent terror attacks that runs along the Green Line, with some diversions meant to incorporate large Israeli populations on the 'Israel side' of the fence and/or to account for security concerns. The fence was a highly debated topic during the height of the Second Intifada when terrorists could easily infiltrate into Israeli cities and population centers. It is attributed with decreasing terrorism dramatically.

Settlements

Also known as Israeli communities in Judea, Samaria, the Golan (and formerly in the Gaza Strip). These are communities that were established after Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War. In general, there are two types of communities - security and ideological. Security related communities are those that have been created in areas of strategic defense importance to Israel. Examples include communities in the Jordan Valley, along the Jordan River. These communities are traditionally seen as an obstacle to invading Arab armies from the East. Other security settlements are located on high peaks of the Judea and Samaria - places from which hostile forces could control or seriously disrupt life in Israel's major populations centers. Ideological communities are those in locations where the Jewish People have a historic or spiritual affinity. Examples include Hebron, communities in the area of Shechem and - according to the US State Department - neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

Settlers

Term widely used for those Israelis who choose to live in a community/settlement located in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.

State of all its Citizens

A term used by some Israeli citizens who would like Israel to define itself less by its Jewish character and more by the ethnic make-up of the citizens that live in the state. Those who use the term often promote the idea of jettisoning the outwardly Jewish symbols of Israel such as the Israeli flag and the Hatikva national anthem. 

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is the massive stone platform built by King Herod to support the second Jewish Temple (the Beit HaMiKdash) in Jerusalem. Not long after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple one thousand nine hundred and thirty-six years ago in 70 CE, they erected on its site a pagan house of worship. When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, the Temple Mount was left desolate as a reminder to Jews that God had forsaken them. Shortly after the Moslem conquest of the area in 638 CE, the Caliph Omar cleared the Temple Mount of debris and re-dedicated it as a place of Moslem worship. In 691 CE, Omar's son Abdel-Malik, enshrined the memory of his father by building the Dome of the Rock on the site of the ancient Jewish Temples. A few years later in 701 CE, the Al Aksa Mosque was built on the southern portion of the Temple Mount and became Islam's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. Although the Temple Mount is still the Jewish People's holiest site, Jewish religious law and current political sensitivities restrict access to the area. Therefore, Jewish worshipers pray at the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, known commonly as the "Western Wall" or Kotel in Hebrew.

Territories

The politically neutral term for describing the areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War. The terms "Judea" and "Samaria" have taken on a right-wing connotation in Israeli political discourse, as they are the biblical names to the area. Left-wing parties use the terms "West Bank" or "occupied territories."

Threshold

The percent of the total vote that a party needs to win in the election to win election to the Knesset. The threshold is now 3.25% of the votes cast, which will gain a party about 4 Knesset seats.

UN Resolutions 242 & 338

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War and established the "land-for-peace" formulation. It called for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East that would include: Israeli withdrawal from territories captured; cessation of states of belligerency between Israel and Arab nations; freedom of navigation in international waterways; just settlement to the refugee problem; and territorial inviolability and political independence of every state in the area. UN Resolution 338, adopted after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, re-affirmed resolution 242 and called for end of warfare between Egypt and Israel. Israelis are quick to point out that 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from "territories" not "all the territories" captured. This exegesis means that the comprehensiveness of the withdrawal is contingent upon the quality of the peace granted in return.

Unilateral Withdrawal

A policy originally advocated in 2003 by former Labor party leader, Amram Mitzna, and other left-wing parties which proposed unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and major parts of the West Bank. After winning a landslide victory over Mitzna largely on the strength of his opposition to unilateral withdrawal and the security fence, Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon later endorsed the plan and embarked on what he called 'Disengagement'. In the summer of 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip and a portion of Northern Samaria (including 25 settlements and approximately 8,000 Israeli citizens). Proponents of further unilateral withdrawals see it as a way to extricate Israel from sticky political and security situations and safeguard Israel's Jewish and democratic character. Critics view unilateral withdrawal as a mistaken policy since it makes no demands on the Palestinian side and because it conveys a message that terror works. 

West Bank

Western bank of the Jordan River captured from Jordan by Israeli in 1967, also known as Judea and Samaria. Approximately 2.1 million Palestinians and approximately 400,000 Israelis live in Judea and Samaria which measures 5860 square kilometers. Many voters on Israel's political right, along with many religious Jews, view these areas as the heart of ancient Israel and therefore wish to maintain control over the area based on historic and security rationales.