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

About the 2003 Elections

Soon after being elected to the premiership, Sharon abolished the direct election for Prime Minister, and Israel returned to the familiar system of single-ballot elections. The elections were held in the shadow of the Al Aqsa Intifada, which erupted in the fall of 2000, and exacted an unprecedented price from the citizens of Israel. In 2002 alone, 450 Israelis were killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks. The struggle against terrorism also exacted a heavy economic price, and the economy slowed down.

The broad unity government formed by Sharon in 2001 began to fall apart in 2002. The first to resign was the Ihud HaLeumi-Yisrael Beytenu parliamentary group, followed by Gesher, and in the fall of 2002, the senior partner, the Labor Party, also left the coalition. Prior to the elections two important leadership struggles occurred in both of the largest parties. In the Likud, Binyamin Netanyahu (who had returned from a timeout from political life), competed for the leadership but lost to Prime Minister Sharon. In the Labor Party, Amram Mitzna was elected to head the party after beating Binyamin Ben Eliezer and Haim Ramon.

Twenty-seven lists ran in the elections, 13 of which entered the Knesset. Despite the precarious security situation and the economic recession, Prime Minister Sharon enjoyed widespread popularity. He led the Likud to win 38 seats, and together with Yisrael B’Aliya, which had merged with the Likud after the elections, the Likud controlled a third of the Knesset seats. The left-wing Zionist parties suffered a heavy blow. After more than two years of Intifada, many people felt that the Oslo process had exhausted itself, and that there was no partner for peace. The Labor Party declined to 19 seats, while Meretz received only six seats. Many of those disappointed with the left moved to the center of the political map, and voted for Shinui, which undertook to act for the formation of a secular government. Shinui was extremely successful and became the third largest party, with 15 seats. There was a decline in the power of the religious parties due to the weakening of Shas (from 17 to 11 seats), and the Arab parties declined from 10 to eight seats. The government that was formed after the elections rested on a coalition of four Parliamentary Groups: Likud, Shinui, the NRP and HaIhud-HaLeumi-Yisrael Beytenu. Together these parliamentary groups provided the government with a majority of 68 MKs. 

Additional Reading

Asher Arian and Michal Shamir (eds.), The Elections in Israel 2003, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2005.

Shmuel Sandler, M. Ben Mollov and Jonathan Rynhold (eds.), Israel at the Polls 2003, London: Routledge, 2005.

Reuven Y. Hazan and Abraham Diskin, "The Parliamentary Elections in Israel 2003", Electoral Studies 23 (2) (2004), pp. 353-360.

Ofer Kenig, "The 2003 Elections in Israel: Has the Return to the 'Old' System Reduced Party System Fragmentation?", Israel Affairs 11 (3) (2005), pp. 552-566.

Elections for the 16th 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 925,279 38 29.4 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Labor Party 455,183 19 * 14.5 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Shinui 386,535 15 12.3 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Shas 258,879 11 8.2 Candidates Candidates
National Union 173,973 7 5.5 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Meretz 164,122 6 5.2 Candidates Candidates
United Torah Judaism 135,087 5 4.3 Candidates Candidates
National Religious Party 132,370 6 4.2 Candidates Candidates
Hadash 93,819 3 3.0 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Am Ehad 86,808 3 2.8 Candidates Candidates
Balad 71,299 3 2.3 Candidates Candidates Platform Platform
Yisrael Ba-Aliya 67,719 2 2.2 Candidates Candidates
Ra'am 65,551 2 2.1 Candidates Candidates
Green Leaf 37,855 - 1.2 Candidates Candidates
Herut 36,202 - 1.1 Candidates Candidates
Progressive National Alliance 20,571 - 0.7 Candidates Candidates
Greens 12,833 - 0.4 Candidates Candidates
Israel Aheret 7,144 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
Ahavat Israel 5,468 - 0.2 Candidates Candidates
Tzomet 2,023 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Center Party 1,961 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Daam 1,925 - 0.1 Candidates Candidates
Citizen and State 1,566 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Men's Rights in the Family (Ra-ash) 1,284 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Lahava 1,181 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Social Justice (Za'am) 894 - 0.0 Candidates Candidates
Leeder 833 0 Candidates Candidates