The article addresses a common argument that tracks the historical roots of Israeli politics in the non-democratic political tradition of Eastern Europe. This popular picture is expressed in Yonatan Shapiro's monolithic depiction of a political society shaped by a domineering, hierarchical party, which only practiced procedural democracy. The article asserts that the political culture of the Yishuv and the State of Israel during its early years was a vibrant democratic culture whose members engaged in intensive struggles and self-examination of their political order. Two junctures of these many struggles are explored: the struggles that concluded with Mapai splitting in 1942-44, and the struggles of the early 1950s. They revolved around widespread, resounding demands in Mapai for an effective party-based democracy that would provide a foundation for inclusive democracy in the entire society. They expressed a democratic ethos based on conflicting principles of unity, authority, and participation and the various democratic systems of political representation that stem from these principles. Understanding this is a necessary condition for understanding how the state of Israel could become one of the few democratic states created following WW II, and how it managed to survive as such.