January 17, 2011 / 1:44 PM / 8 years ago

Factbox: Declining fortunes of Israel's Labor Party

(Reuters) - Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s departure from the Labor party on Monday fractured the political movement that has governed Israel longer than any other since its creation in 1948.

Seven of Israel’s 12 prime ministers have belonged to center-left Labor — the most recent of them Barak himself, who lost the job a decade ago when Israel’s electorate turned more decidedly to the right during a Palestinian uprising in which thousands died.

Labor has since seen a steady downhill slide at the polls, winning just 13 of parliament’s 120 seats — its worst showing ever — at the last election in 2009. In its heyday, the party usually held more than 40 seats, including a record 56 in 1969.

Following is a list of Israel’s Labor prime ministers and their most memorable achievements:

* David Ben-Gurion - The bushy white-haired “founding father” oversaw the establishment of the state of Israel and was the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, holding office from 1948 to 1954, and again from 1955 to 1963. He bolted Labor’s precursor, Mapai, in 1965 to found the breakaway Rafi faction.

* Moshe Sharett - A dovish leader who contested Ben-Gurion’s policies of staging deadly retaliatory raids into then Jordanian and Egyptian territory, Sharett succeeded him briefly, serving as prime minister from January 1954 through November 1955.

* Levi Eshkol - Served from 1963 until his death in 1969, presiding over a 1967 war in which Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip, land that Palestinians seek for a future state.

* Golda Meir - Israel’s only woman prime minister served from 1969 to 1974, when a judicial commission excoriated her government for a devastating 1973 war in which thousands died when Israel was caught unprepared.

* Yitzhak Rabin - A general from the 1967 war, Rabin served twice, from 1974 to 1977 and again from 1992 to 1995. That year he became the first Israeli prime minister to be assassinated, gunned down at a peace rally by a right-wing Israeli opposed to an peace deal reached with Palestinians two years earlier.

In 1977, Rabin had been the first Labor leader to lose an election to the right-wing Likud. Menachem Begin succeeded him as the first of five rightist premiers, the latest of whom is Benjamin Netanyahu, elected in 2009, succeeding Ehud Olmert of the centrist Kadima party. Two other Likud leaders to serve as prime ministers were Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon.

* Shimon Peres - Currently Israel’s president, served twice as prime minister (1984-86 and 1995-96). He was an architect of Israel’s first peace deal with the Palestinians signed in 1993, for which he, Rabin and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat shared a Nobel peace prize.

* Ehud Barak - An ex-army chief, Barak won election in 1999, serving through 2001 when he stepped down during a Palestinian uprising and after his failed efforts to make peace with the Palestinians and Syria.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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