This article explores the historical roots and dynamics of the Israeli welfare state as connected to processes of state-building in a context of settlement and colonization. It analyzes the ways in which economic and political conditions facilitated and encouraged the emergence and institutionalization of a Zionist proto-welfare state during the pre-state period. This development is examined as closely linked to the challenges experienced by the Zionist colonial project and its relationships with the local Arab-Palestinian community and the Mandatory state. The article focuses on the institutional development of two fields of welfare policy as case-studies: the labor exchanges system, and public housing. On the basis of that analysis I argue that the welfare actions of the Zionist institutions were mainly aimed at the achievement of two central and interwoven goals of the settlement project: statebuilding, and the management of the conflict with the local Palestinian population. In the case of building and provision of public housing, the action of the Zionist institutions was determined also by the territorial interests and strategies of the colonial project. After the establishment of the state, albeit under significantly different political and social circumstances, these goals and the institutional instruments continued to play a pivotal role in the functioning of the Israeli welfare state.
Keywords: Welfare Policies, State-Building, History of Israel, Internal Colonization, Public Housing