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Western observers have considered the Israeli press for the most part to be highly independent and a reliable source of information. The press has reflected accurately the range of political opinions in the country and played a leading role in investigating and uncovering many scandals involving official corruption and mismanagement. It has also covered developments in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In addition to providing news and information, Israel's press, television and radio, in effect constituted an "extra-parliamentary opposition," according to William Frankel, a British Jewish journalist who is an authority on Israel. The influence of the press is considerable; 1988 estimates are that on a daily basis more than 75 percent of all adult Israelis read one daily newspaper and that about 11 percent read two or more.

As of 1988, most daily newspapers were published in Hebrew; because Israel is a nation of immigrants, others appeared in Arabic, English, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, French, and German, with weeklies adding more languages to the list. Many of the country's daily newspapers, particularly the English-language Jerusalem Post and those printed in Hebrew, were founded by Zionist political parties during the prestate period, and they have continued to be politically affiliated with such parties. Since independence, however, the "party newspaper" has declined as political alignments have changed. For example, the consolidation of Israel's Socialist parties led to the demise of some papers affiliated with the former parties. In addition, the management and editorial direction of some papers, such as the Jerusalem Post (circulation of 30,000 on weekdays, 47,000 on weekends), has become increasingly independent, production costs have risen, and party supporters have turned to rapidly growing independent dailies. Such papers have included Ma'ariv (Afternoon -- circulation of 147,000 on weekdays, 245,000 on weekends), Yediot Aharonot (Latest News--circulation of 180,000 on weekdays, 280,000 on weekends), Hadashot (News), which was founded in 1984, and the influential Ha'aretz (The Land--circulation of 55,000 on weekdays, 75,000 or weekends), an independent morning daily. Israel's two leading and politically liberal dailies have been Davar (News--circulation of 39,000), the official organ of the Histadrut, and Al Hamishmar (The Watchman-- circulation of 25,000), published by Mapam.

In 1953 the Editors' Committee, whose prestate name was the Redaction Committee, was officially registered as an independent association serving as a channel between the government and the press, and as a "voluntary partner" in carrying out the military censorship code--an arrangement that involved the exchange of confidential information with the general staff of the IDF. This arrangement functioned relatively smoothly as long as there was consensus over national security issues; relations between the press and the IDF became more strained, however, following the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Another organization concerned with media oversight, the Israel Press Council, came into being in 1963. The press council is a professional association responsible, among other matters, for administering the code of ethics binding journalists.

The Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), established in 1965 and modeled after the British Broadcasting Corporation, controlled the country's radio and television networks. It was subject to the general supervision of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The IBA, however, operated autonomously under a self-governing board of directors whose discretion over content and presentation, with the exception of a stormy period during Begin's prime ministership, was rarely limited. The two leading radio stations were the IBA and Galei Tzahal (Voice of the IDF), the highly popular IDF broadcasting station. In 1968 Israeli television began broadcasting in both Hebrew and Arabic.

According to two polls conducted in 1988 by Public Opinion Research of Israel, a plurality of Jewish Israelis (42 percent) considered television news programs as their "best source" of international news, followed by newspapers (27 percent) and radio (25 percent). Only 3 percent of Israelis relied on magazines to keep them informed. These figures revealed a dramatic shift from 1986 figures that indicated reliance on newspapers as the best source for news coverage (46 percent), followed by magazines (26 percent), and television (19 percent). The poll attributed the sharp increase in reliance on the broadcast media to the strong visual impact of the Palestinian uprising on Israeli society.

As of 1988, Israeli Arabic language daily newspapers were led by the Jerusalem-based Al Anba (The News), with a circulation of about 10,000. Rakah also published an Arabic paper, Al Ittihad (Unity). An increasing number of Israeli Arabs also read Hebrew dailies. Al Quds (Jerusalem), founded in 1968 for Arabs in Jerusalem and the West Bank, resulted from the merger of two veteran Palestinian dailies founded on the West Bank following Jordan's annexation of the territory in 1950. By 1988 the paper had largely transferred its operations to Amman. In the early 1970s, additional Palestinian papers appeared, including Al Fajr al Jadid (The New Dawn), with a circulation of about 3,000 to 5,000, and Ash Shaab (The People), with 2,000 to 3,000 readers. Weekly and monthly magazines and periodicals published in Arabic include the literary monthly Al Jadid (The New); At Taawun (Cooperation), published by the Histadrut Arab Workers' Department; and the Mapam party's Arab organ Al Mirsad (The Lookout). Israeli Arab and Palestinian newspapers have relied on Israeli and international sources for their reports on Israeli government decisions and actions concerning Israel's Arab community and Palestinian communities on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Arab press has faced the same censorship constraints as have Jewish newspapers, namely, the Press Ordinance of 1933. This regulation was first enacted by the British mandatory authority. In 1948 it was adopted by Israel and administered by the Ministry of Interior to license, supervise, and regulate the press. The IDF had responsibility for administering censorship regulations, and, under an agreement with the Editors' Committee, most Hebrew-language newspapers could exercise self-censorship, with the censor receiving only articles dealing with national security matters. This arrangement, however, did not cover Palestinian publications in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, whose editors were required to submit items for publication to the military administration on a nightly basis. Failure to abide by these regulations has resulted in warnings and newspaper shutdowns. As a result of these regulations, many West Bank newspapers have preferred to publish in Jerusalem, which has less rigid civilian legislation and courts. In late 1988, Israeli authorities, suspecting Palestinian journalists of involvement in the intifadah, censored and shut down many Palestinian newspapers and magazines in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and arrested Arab journalists, including several members of the board of the Arab Journalists' Association.

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The literature on the Israeli political system is extensive. Useful bibliographies and bibliographical essays on Israel include Gregory S. Mahler's Bibliography of Israeli Politics; Joshua Sinai's "A Bibliographic Review of the Modern History of Israel;" and Books on Israel: Vol. I, edited by Ian S. Lustick.

Comprehensive studies on Israeli government and politics include Yonathan Shapiro's HaDemokrakia Be Yisrael; Asher Arian's Politics in Israel: The Second Generation; Michael Wolffsohn's Israel, Polity, Society, and Economy, 1882-1986; Bernard Reich's, Israel: Land of Tradition and Conflict; Howard M. Sachar's two-volume A History of Israel; William Frankel's Israel Observed: An Anatomy of the State; Bernard Avishai's The Tragedy of Zionism: Revolution and Democracy in the Land of Israel; and Mitchell Cohen's Zion and State: Nation, Class, and the Shaping of Modern Israel.

Aspects of Israeli government and politics are covered in a series of volumes on the Knesset elections of 1969, 1973, 1977, and 1981, edited by Asher Arian; Israel at the Polls, 1981: A Study of the Knesset Elections, edited by Howard Penniman and Daniel J. Elazar; The Roots of Begin's Success: The 1981 Israeli Elections, edited by Dan Caspi, et al; Israel in the Begin Era, edited by Robert O. Freedman; Nathan Yanai's Party Leadership in Israel: Maintenance and Change; Samuel Sager's The Parliamentary System of Israel; Local Government in Israel, edited by Daniel Elazar and Chaim Kalchheim; and Yoram Peri's Between Battles and Ballots: Israeli Military in Politics. Two leading books on the Labor Party are Peter Y. Medding's Mapai in Israel: Political Organisation and Government in a New Society and Myron J. Aronoff's Power and Ritual in the Israel Labor Party. The religious parties are covered in S. Zalman Abramov's Perpetual Dilemma: Jewish Religion in the Jewish State; Norman L. Zucker's The Coming Crisis in Israel: Private Faith and Public Policy; Gary S. Schiff's Tradition and Politics: The Religious Parties of Israel; and Ian S. Lustick's For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel.

Foreign relations are discussed in Michael Brecher's The Foreign Policy System of Israel, Decisions in Israel's Foreign Policy, and Decisions in Crisis: Israel, 1967 and 1973; Bernard Reich's Quest for Peace: United States-Israel Relations and the Arab-Israeli Conflict and The United States and Israel: The Dynamics of Influence; Shlomo Aronson's Conflict and Bargaining in the Middle East: An Israeli Perspective; Gideon Rafael's Destination Peace: Three Decades of Israeli Foreign Policy; Dynamics of Dependence: U.S.-Israeli Relations, edited by Gabriel Sheffer; and Aaron S. Klieman's Statecraft in the Dark: Israel's Practice of Quiet Diplomacy. The Arab-Israeli peace process is discussed in William B. Quandt's Camp David: Peacemaking and Politics and Harold H. Saunders's The Other Walls: The Politics of the Arab-Israeli Peace Process. Finally, materials on various peace proposals include the Brookings Institution's report Toward Arab-Israeli Peace. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1988

Country Listing

Israel Table of Contents