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

About the 1981 Elections

It is customary to view the election campaign for the 10th Knesset in 1981 as the most tense and violent in Israel's history. These elections reflected extreme ethnic tension, and—more than in any election campaign before or since—there was a strong correlation between ethnic origin and voting patterns. Most of the Ashkenazim stood behind Shimon Peres and the Alignment, whereas most Israelis of Sephardic (Mizrahi) origins supported Menachem Begin and the Likud.

The four years preceding the elections, during which the Likud, headed by Menachem Begin, led the government for the first time in Israel's history, were filled with historic events. The government’s term began with the visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Israel in 1977, and in 1979, the peace treaty with Egypt was signed. However, once the euphoria died down, the government began to falter and disintegrate. Two Ministers, Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman, resigned from the government due to disagreements regarding the continuation of the peace process. In the economic sphere, the government was also not particularly successful, and its liberalizing measures led to inflation that reached a peak in the mid-1980s. In addition, the Prime Minister suffered from health problems, and was hospitalized a number of times. In the second half of the term of the Ninth Knesset, public opinion surveys showed that the Likud's standing had reached a low point. Many saw the historic upheaval in which the Alignment lost its power as a temporary deviation that would be rectified in the coming elections, when they believed the Alignment would return to its natural role as the ruling party.

When early elections were called in 1981, the Alignment had a double-digit advantage over the Likud. However, there was a gradual erosion of this advantage. The election campaign was characterized by a great deal of tension, and violent events were not uncommon, especially during election rallies held by the Alignment. As Election Day drew near, Prime Minister Begin regained his health, and managed to rouse the public at the election rallies at which he appeared. Three weeks before the election, Begin approved an Israeli air strike on the Iraqi nuclear installation, which was soon to have become active. This successful attack reinstated his popularity.

Of the 31 lists that ran in the elections, only 10 entered the Knesset. The elections were very close, and only 10,000 votes separated the number of voters for Likud and for the Alignment. In the wake of the 1981 elections, the two largest parties held a record high of 95 seats. The Dash party vanished from the political scene, and the National Religious Party lost half of its power, particularly to the benefit of the Sephardi Tami and the Right wing Tehiya parties.

The Alignment together with its potential partners held only 56 seats, and thus did not have a preventive bloc (a bloc that prevents anyone else from forming a government), which would have enabled it to form a government. The right wing bloc held a majority, but since the Tehiya party refused to join a government that was about to evacuate settlements in the Sinai, Prime Minister Begin was forced to form a narrow coalition supported by only 61 MKs. In addition to the Likud, this coalition included the National Religious Party, Tami, and Agudat Yisrael.

Additional Reading

Asher Arian (ed.) The Elections in Israel, 1981, 1983, New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction.

Howard R. Penniman and Daniel J. Elazar (eds.), Israel at the Polls, 1981: A Study of the Knesset Elections, 1986, Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

Don Peretz and Sammy Smooha, “Israel’s Eleventh Knesset Election,”Middle East Journal, 1985, Vol. 39, No.1, pp. 86–103.

Elections for the 10th Knesset


Number Eligible Voters


Electoral Threshold


Total Votes


Total Votes


Voter Turnout


Party Votes Count Number Of Seats Share Of Votes List Of Candidates Platform
Likud 718,941 48 37.1 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Alignment 708,536 47 36.6 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
National Religious Party 95,232 6 4.9 Candidates Candidates
Agudat Yisrael 72,312 4 3.7 Candidates Candidates
Hadash 64,918 4 3.4 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Tehiya 44,700 3 2.3 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Tami 44,466 3 2.3 Candidates Candidates
Telem 30,600 2 1.6 Candidates Candidates
Shinui 29,837 2 1.5 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Ratz 27,921 1 1.4 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Poalei Agudat Yisrael 17,090 - 0.9 Candidates Candidates
Independent Liberals 11,764 - 0.6 Candidates Candidates
United Arab List 11,590 - 0.6 Candidates Candidates
Plato Sharon 10,823 - 0.6 Candidates Candidates
Sheli 8,691 - 0.4 Candidates Candidates
Arab Brotherhood List 8,304 - 0.4 Candidates Candidates
List for Aliyah 6,992 - 0.4 Candidates Candidates
Kach 5,128 - 0.3 Candidates Candidates
Independence 4,710 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
One Israel 3,726 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
Arab Citizens' List 2,596 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Pensioners' List 2,404 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Unity Party 1,293 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Ya'ad 1,228 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Otzma 839 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Tent Movement 545 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Abolish Income Tax 503 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Amkha 460 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Youth Movement 412 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Council to Rescue the Homeland 405 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Independents Movement 400 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates