The evolution of Israeli citizenship: An overview

Yoav Peled*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Israel's citizenship discourse has consisted of three different layers, superimposed on one another: An ethno-nationalist discourse of inclusion and exclusion, a republican discourse of community goals and civic virtue, and a liberal discourse of civil, political, and social rights. The liberal discourse has served as the public face of Israeli citizenship and functioned to separate Israel's Jewish and Palestinians citizens from the non-citizen Palestinians in the occupied territories. The ethno-nationalist discourse has been invoked to discriminate between Jewish and Palestinian citizens within the sovereign State of Israel. Last, the republican discourse has been used to legitimate the different positions occupied by the major Jewish social groups: Ashkenazim vs. mizrachim, males vs. females, secular vs. religiously orthodox. Until the mid-1980s the republican discourse, based on a corporatist economy centered on the umbrella labor organization - the Histadrut - mediated between the contradictory dictates of the liberal and the ethno-nationalist discourses. Since then, the liberalization of the Israeli economy has weakened the republican discourse, causing the liberal and ethno-nationalist ones to confront each other directly. Since the failure of the Oslo peace process in 2000, these two discourses have each gained the upper hand in one policy area - the liberal one in economic policy and the ethno-national one in policy towards the Palestinians and the Arabs in general. This division of labor is the reason why on the eve of its 60th anniversary as a state Israel is experiencing its worst crisis of governability ever. While Israel's economy is booming and the country's international standing remains high, due to the global 'war on terror,' public trust in state institutions and leaders is at an all-time low, so that the government cannot tend to the country's pressing business.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-345
Number of pages11
JournalCitizenship Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Citizenship
  • Ethno-nationalist
  • Israel
  • Liberal
  • Republican


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