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Bifurcated loyalty and religious actors’ behaviour in democratic politics: the case of post-1967 religious Zionism in Israel

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This paper deals with the political behaviour of religious groups in a democratic setting. In particular, it suggests an explanation as to why the same religious group might adopt very different modes of engagement with the state, over the same issues, at different times. The proposed framework combines two components: (1) a communitarian understanding of civil society; and (2) the concept of bifurcated loyalty which grasps the unique tension experienced by religious groups in democratic regimes, and its effect on their political behaviour. I go on to apply this framework in the case of religious Zionism in Israel. This case, which explores important events and trends in the history of the religious Zionist group in Israel, with special emphasis on the post-1967 era, nicely demonstrates the shifting strategies of engagement of this group with the state. The behaviour of this group ranged from constructive collaboration through participation in government to outright violent clashes with the state. Such dramatic changes expose the link between changing levels of bifurcated loyalty and political behaviour in response to changes in state policies towards religious actors and contents. The paper concludes with a brief discussion about the general applicability of such an approach to the study of religious groups in democratic politics and civil society.
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Keywords: Israel; bifurcated loyalty; religious Zionism; religious groups; the disengagement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Political Science, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, 31905, Israel

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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