By Uri Bialer

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Studies of Israel's foreign policy have generally tended to minimize the importance of internal politics as a determinant of that country's external behavior. Implicitly accepting Ranke's dictum concerning the Primal der Aussenpolitik, most have proceeded from the basic assumption that external circumstances are primarily responsible for shaping relations among and between states. Whatever the salience of that approach in other cases, it hardly seems appropriate to the present instance. Indeed, a study of recently declassified documents relating to the early years of Israel's statehood suggests quite the opposite. During that period, Israel's foreign policy was to a large extent – certainly larger than has hitherto been acknowledged – determined by the domestic context within which that policy was formulated and instrumentalized.

The following two chapters will attempt to demonstrate why that was so. In so doing, they will also analyze Israel's early external relations from the perspective of the discussions conducted at the time at various forums of Mapai (the acronym of the “Israel Workers' Party”).

There are two reasons why these discussions and debates are of crucial importance. One is the overall political hegemony of that party and its leaders, a position which it had already attained within the Jewish community a long time before the establishment of Israel as an independent entity in 1948. After the termination of the Mandate, they continued in that posture. Internal party discussions on various subjects had then decisively influenced the decision-making process of the entire Zionist leadership.