The Civil Society, the Uncivil Society, and the Difficulty Israel Has Making Peace with the Palestinians

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Abstract: The difficulty Israel has making peace with the Palestinians, which became evident with the failure of the 1993 Oslo Agreements, can be explained through the internal relationships and historical dynamics within the Israeli public sphere, and the relations between the public sphere and the state. Using the terms ‘civil society’ and ‘uncivil society’ as a theoretical framework, the article examines both the relations between these two binary representations within the public sphere and the ability of each of them to influence state policy through two analytical tools: cultural politics and instrumental politics. The contention is that the Oslo Agreements failed in part because while both the civil and uncivil societies arose as a cultural innovation and alternative collective identities in neo-liberal Israel, the uncivil society succeeded in translating its collective representations into effective instrumental politics that influenced the Israeli state, while the civil society failed to do so.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-186
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Civil Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The change of the government in 1977 to rule by the Likud party provided support for Gush Emunim. It received material benefits and legal protection that made life in the occupied territories materially inexpensive and tempting. The Begin government confiscated an estimated 40% of the land in the territories, arguing that the land belonged to no one but the state. This action allowed Ariel Sharon, as chairperson of the Committee of Ministers for settlements, to initiate tens of new settlements. In the 1980s Gush Emunim ceased to function as a movement. It was undoubtedly a sign of institutionalization. The movement’s leaders became leading figures in right-wing political parties and continued to promote the settlers’ goals through a new formal council of settlements called the Yesha Council, which was recognized and supported by the Israeli state during the era of right-wing government rule. All in all, between 1967 and 1995, 136 settlements were constructed in the West Bank, new home to 138,600 Jewish Israeli inhabitants.12

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • Oslo Agreements
  • Public sphere
  • civil society
  • cultural politics
  • instrumental politics
  • uncivil society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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