1977

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Elections for the 9th Knesset

17.5.1977

Number Eligible Voters

2,236,293

Block Percent

1%

Total Voters

1,771,726

Number of valid votes

1,747,820

Precent of voters

79.2%

table
Party Votes Count Seats Count Votes Percent List Of Candidates Platform
Likud 718,941 43 33.4 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Alignment 430,023 32 24.6 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Dash 202,265 15 11.6 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
National Religious Party 160,787 12 9.2 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Hadash 80,118 5 4.6 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Agudat Yisrael 58,652 4 3.4 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Plato Sharon 35,049 1 2.0 Candidates Candidates
Shlomtzion 33,947 2 1.9 Candidates Candidates
Sheli 27,281 2 1.6 Candidates Candidates
United Arab List 24,185 1 1.4 Candidates Candidates
Poalei Agudat Yisrael 23,571 1 1.3 Candidates Candidates
Ratz 20,621 1 1.2 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Independent Liberals 20,384 1 1.2 Candidates Candidates
Independent Liberals 14,516 - 0.8 Candidates Candidates
Beit Yisrael 9,505 - 0.5 Candidates Candidates
Arab Reform Movement 5,695 - 0.3 Candidates Candidates
Women's Party 5,674 - 0.3 Candidates Candidates
Kach 4,396 - 0.3 Candidates Candidates
Hofesh 2,498 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
New Generation 1,802 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Zionist Panthers 1,798 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Du Kiyum BeTzedek 1,085 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates

Note that the lists of candidates and platforms in this table are in Hebrew.

About the 1977 Elections

The elections for the Ninth Knesset in 1977 were an important milestone in the political history of the State of Israel. After Mapai and its heirs (the Alignment) held the reins of power for 29 years (42 years if we include the pre-State period), that power shifted, for the first time, to the right-wing bloc under the leadership of Menachem Begin, who enjoyed a sweeping victory in the elections. The "upheaval,” as the results of this election were called, was the culmination of a gradual and continuing process that has been explained in varied ways over the years.

One explanation is rooted in the gradual process that Herut underwent, over the years, from a political movement that was regarded as a pariah to a legitimate and accepted movement. The decision to team up with the Liberal Party in 1965 (when Gahal was established), and the invitation that was extended to Gahal to serve in the national consolidation government on the eve of the Six Day War, greatly contributed to the legitimization of the Herut movement and to its increasing popularity.

A second explanation is based on the demographic and social changes that occurred in Israeli society at the time. Many immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries, who had encountered an arrogant and patronizing attitude on the part of the Mapai establishment, grew increasingly resentful. This finally manifested itself in changes in voting patterns, with many people voting against Mapai/ the Alignment and for Begin and the Likud.

According to an additional explanation, the developments that occurred during the Eighth Knesset (1974–1977) were responsible for the upheaval: The Yom Kippur War and the social foment that followed, the corruption scandals that were associated with members of the ruling party, and the formation of a fresh political force that offered an alternative in the form of the new Democratic Movement for Change (Dash). The immediate event that brought about early elections was the firing of the ministers of the National Religious party (NRP) in the wake of their abstention in a no-confidence vote that was brought in response to Sabbath desecration on an air force base.

The election results showed that for the first time, the Alignment lost its status as Israel's largest parliamentary group. It lost 19 seats, winning only 32—the smallest number of seats in its history to that point. Most of the votes that were lost by the Alignment moved to Dash, which received an impressive 15 seats. The Likud and the Shlomzion list headed by Ariel Sharon received 45 seats. In simple arithmetical terms, the Alignment could have formed a narrow government, but the National Religious party quickly announced that it saw itself as a natural partner in a government headed by Begin. Thus, the long-lived partnership between religious Zionism and the Labor movement—a partnership that was nicknamed “the historic covenant”—came to an end.

In addition to the NRP, Agudat Yisrael also joined the new government (Agudat Yisrael held no ministerial position, but was a member of the coalition in every respect). Moshe Dayan, who had run on the Alignment list in the elections, crossed the lines, and Begin appointed him Foreign Minister. The coalition negotiations with Dash were not easy and the government continued its work with the parliamentary support of only 62 Knesset members. In the end, four months after the elections, Dash also joined the government, which increased its base of support to 77MKs. However, within less than a year, Dash disintegrated, turning into many small fragments and parliamentary groups.

Additional Reading

Asher Arian (ed.), The Elections in Israel 1977. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Academic Press, 1980.

Howard R. Penniman (ed.), Israel at the Polls: The Knesset Elections of 1977, 1979, Washington, DC, American Enterprise Institute.

Don Peretz, “The Earthquake: Israel’s Ninth Knesset Elections,” Middle East Journal 1977, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 251–266.