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

About the 1988 Elections

After the two national unity governments had served their full terms, Israel’s situation had greatly improved. The IDF withdrew from the interior of Lebanon, and realigned its forces along a narrow security zone in Southern Lebanon, the inflation was brought under control the economy was showing encouraging signs of recovery, and the national unity governments had managed to extract the country from the difficult situation it had been in on the eve of the previous elections. But, alongside these achievements it seemed that the system was in deadlock. During Shamir's premiership the government earned the unflattering nickname “national paralysis government,” reflecting the situation in which the Alignment and the Likud were constantly neutralizing each other, thus preventing progress in various policy spheres. In December 1987, the first Intifada broke out, raising a public debate about the issue of the occupied territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the elections, the public was called upon to decide between the two major lists: the hawkish Likud, headed by Yitzhak Shamir, and the more dovish Alignment, headed by Shimon Peres.

The Alignment which ran without Mapam, which ran independently for the first time since 1965, lost several seats, as did the Likud, though the two together still received nearly two thirds of the Knesset seats. The smaller left wing parties—Mapam, Ratz, Shinui, Hadash, and the Progressive List for Peace—received a total of 15 seats. On the right, Moledet (Rehavam Ze’evi’s new list) joining the lists of Tehiya and Tzomet, which together received seven seats. However, the largest gain in the elections was that of the religious parties. The Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas increased its power from four to six seats, the two ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi parties together received seven seats, and the NRP increased the number of its seats from four to five.

Even though the Likud received only one seat more than the Alignment (40 compared to 39), Shimon Peres did not have a preventive bloc, since the right-wing and religious bloc had 65 seats. Despite the clear victory of the right wing and religious bloc, forming a government proved not to be simple, because of the demands of the religious parties for far reaching religious legislation, and Shamir decided to continue the partnership with Peres and form yet another national unity government, though this time without rotation in the premiership. Shas, the NRP, and Agudat Yisrael also joined the coalition. However, the national unity government came to an end in March 1990, after the Alignment joined a vote of no-confidence in the government, and in June Shamir formed a narrow government, with all the right-wing and religious parties.

Additional Reading

Asher Arian and Michal Shamir (eds.), The Elections in Israel 1988, 1990, Boulder, Co, Westview.

Daniel J. Elazar and Shmuel Sandler (eds.), Who’s the Boss in Israel? Israel at the Polls 1988 (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 1992).

Elections for the 12th 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 709,305 40 31.1 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Alignment 685,363 39 30.0 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Shas 107,709 6 4.7 Candidates Candidates
Agudat Yisrael 102,714 5 4.5 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Ratz 97,513 5 4.3 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
National Religious Party 89,720 5 3.9 Platform Platform
Hadash 84,032 4 3.7 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Tehiya 70,370 3 3.1 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Mapam 56,345 3 2.5 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Tzomet 45,489 2 2.0 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Moledet 44,174 2 1.9 Candidates Candidates
Shinui 39,538 2 1.7 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Degel HaTorah 34,279 2 1.5 Candidates Candidates
Progressive List for Peace 33,695 1 1.5 Candidates Candidates
Arab Democratic Party 27,012 1 1.2 Candidates Candidates
Pensioners 16,674 - 0.7 Candidates Candidates
Meimad 15,783 - 0.7 Candidates Candidates
Derech Eretz 4,253 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
Leor Movement 4,182 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
Movement for a Just Society 3,222 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Movement for a Just Society 2,947 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Movement for Moshavim 2,838 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Tarshish 1,654 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Silent Power 1,574 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Movement for Demobilized Soldiers 1,018 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Yemenite Association 909 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Unity 446 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates