1999

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Elections for the 15th Knesset

17.5.1999

Number Eligible Voters

4,285,428

Block Percent

1.5%

Total Voters

3,373,748

Number of valid votes

3,309,416

Precent of voters

78.7%

table
Party Votes Count Seats Count Votes Percent List Of Candidates Platform
One Israel 670,484 26 20.3 Candidates Candidates
Likud 468,103 19 14.1 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Shas 430,676 17 13.0 Candidates Candidates
Meretz 253,525 10 7.7 Candidates Candidates
Yisrael Ba-Aliya 171,705 6 5.2 Candidates Candidates
Shinui 167,748 6 5.1 Candidates Candidates
Center Party 165,622 6 5.0 Candidates Candidates
National Religious Party 140,307 5 4.2 Candidates Candidates
United Torah Judaism 125,741 5 3.8 Candidates Candidates
Ra'am 114,810 5 3.5 Candidates Candidates
National Union 100,181 4 3.0 Candidates Candidates
Hadash 87,022 3 2.6 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Yisrael Beytenu 86,153 4 2.6 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Balad 66,103 2 2.0 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Am Ehad 64,143 2 1.9 Candidates Candidates
Pnina Rosenblum 44,953 - 1.4 Candidates Candidates
Power for Pensioners 37,525 - 1.1 Candidates Candidates
Green Leaf 34,029 - 1.0 Candidates Candidates
The Third Way
Greens 13,292 - 0.4 Candidates Candidates
Tikva 7,366 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
Casino 6,540 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
Lev 6,311 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
Negev 4,324 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Tzomet 4,128 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Natural Law Party 2,924 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Progressive Party 2,797 - 0 Candidates Candidates
Daam 2,151 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
New Arab Party 2,042 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Men's Rights in the Family (Ra-ash) 1,257 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Heritage (Moreshet Avot) 1,164 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates

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

About the 1999 Elections

At the outset of the campaign, there were five candidates for prime minister: in addition to Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu, Itzik Mordechai (The Center Party), Benny Begin (HaIhud HaLeumi) and Azmi Bishara (Balad) announced their candidacies. The latter three resigned from the race in the course of the campaign, and the focus on the two remaining candidates almost completely overshadowed their parties' campaigns.

These elections, that were the second elections to be held under the rules of the direct election system, mark the peak of the parliamentary fragmentation, the collapse of the large parties and the strengthening of sectorial parties. No fewer than 15 lists passed the electoral threshold, and entered the Knesset. Barak beat Netanyahu in the battle for the premiership with a convincing margin, but the list he headed, One Israel [Yisrael Ahat] which included Gesher and Meimad (a moderate religious party) in addition to the Labor Party, received only 26 seats. This was the smallest number of seats that a ruling party had received until then. The Likud fell to 19 seats. For the first time in the history of the State, the two large parliamentary groups held fewer than half the Knesset seats.

The Center Party, that was established prior to the elections, tried to gain voter support in the name of a new kind of politics, but was dealt a blow in the elections when it received only six seats. The new Shinui party, led by Yosef (Tomy) Lapid, had a great deal of influence on the elections with its campaign against religious coercion, and also received six seats. As a counter-response, Shas received 17 seats, nearly equaling the Likud in terms of its power. The Arab parties continued to strengthen, and the three Arab lists together received 10 seats.

With his parliamentary group holding less than a quarter of the Knesset seats, it was clear that the coalition that Ehud Barak would form would include a large number of parliamentary groups, and that its standing as a ruling party would be weak. Barak put together a coalition of seven parliamentary groups: One Israel, Shas, Meretz, Yisrael Be’Aliya, the Center Party, the NRP and Yahadut HaTorah. The coalition rested on a majority of 75 members of Knesset, but the problematic partnership between Meretz and the religious parties rendered it unstable. Indeed, within a year from being sworn in, almost nothing remained of the coalition, in view of the resignations, one after another, of Yahadut HaTorah, Meretz, Shas, Gesher (part of One Israel) and Yisrael Be’Aliya. The collapse of the coalition resulted in early elections for the premiership (without Knesset elections) in2001. In these elections Ariel Sharon, who replaced Netanyahu as leader of the Likud, beat Barak, and formed a government, which served for just under two years, in the course of which the disengagement from the Gaza Strip took place.
 

Additional Reading

Asher Arian and Michal Shamir (eds.) The Elections in Israel 1999, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

Daniel J. Elazar and M. Ben Mollov (eds.) Israel at the Polls 1999, London: Frank Cass, 2001.