Elected Prime Minister
General elections were held in
Israel on 29 May 1996. For the first
time the Prime Minister was elected on a separate ballot from the
remaining members of the Knesset.
The 1996 elections resulted in a surprise victory for Netanyahu by a
margin of 29,457 votes, less than 1% of the total number of votes
cast, and much smaller than the number of spoiled votes. This came
after the initial exit polls had predicted a Peres win, spawning
the phrase "went to sleep with Peres, woke up with Netanyahu." This
election was Peres's fourth and last election defeat.
1.1 Peace process
1.2 Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin
1.3 Palestinian terror campaign between February–March 1996
1.4 The ongoing South Lebanon conflict
3.1 Prime Minister
5 Political aftermath
5.1 The 14th Knesset
7 External links
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Oslo Accords and Israel–Jordan Treaty of Peace
Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and
Yasser Arafat during the Oslo Accords
on 13 September 1993
On 13 September 1993,
Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) signed the
Oslo Accords (a Declaration of Principles) on the
South Lawn of the White House. The principles established objectives
relating to a transfer of authority from
Israel to an interim
Palestinian authority, as a prelude to a final treaty establishing a
On 25 July 1994, Jordan and
Israel signed the Washington Declaration,
which formally ended the state of war that had existed between them
since 1948 and on 26 October the Israel–Jordan Treaty of Peace,
U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman
Yasser Arafat signed the
Israeli–Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip on 28 September 1995, in Washington. The agreement allowed the
PLO leadership to relocate to the occupied territories and granted
autonomy to the Palestinians with talks to follow regarding final
status. In return the Palestinians promised to abstain from use of
terror and changed the Palestinian National Covenant, which had called
for the expulsion of all Jews who migrated after 1917 and the
elimination of Israel.
Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin
Main article: Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin
Israel arising from the continuation of terrorism led to
the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a right-wing Jewish
radical on 4 November 1995 during at the end of a rally in support of
the Oslo agreements held in the center of Tel Aviv. The murderer,
Yigal Amir, was a law student at the Bar-Ilan University, believed
Oslo Accords were an existential threat to
Israel and hoped
that by murdering Rabin he would prevent the implementation of the
Oslo Accords. The assassination of Rabin was a shock to the Israeli
public. Approximately 80 heads of state attend Rabin's funeral in
Palestinian terror campaign between February–March 1996
Jaffa Road bus bombings
Jaffa Road bus bombings and
Dizengoff Center suicide
The ongoing South Lebanon conflict
South Lebanon conflict (1982–2000) and Operation
Grapes of Wrath
After taking over from
Yitzhak Rabin following his assassination,
Peres decided to call early elections in order to give the government
a mandate to advance the peace process.
Netanyahu's campaign was helped by Australian mining magnate Joseph
Gutnick, who donated over $1 million to Likud.
Nevertheless, Labour and Peres were comfortably ahead in the polls
early in 1996, holding a lead of 20%. However, the country was hit by
a spate of suicide attacks by
Hamas including the
Jerusalem bus 18
massacres and other attacks in
Ashkelon and the Dizengoff Center,
which killed 59 people and severely damaged Peres' election
chances. Polls taken in mid-May showed Peres ahead by just 4-6%,
whilst two days before the election his lead was down to 2%.
Several leading ultra-orthodox Rabbis, including Elazar Shach, called
on their followers to vote for Netanyahu, whilst Leah Rabin,
Yitzhak's widow, called on Israelis to vote for Peres so that her
husband's death "would not be in vain." Netanyahu also warned that
a Peres victory would lead to the division of
Jerusalem in a final
peace deal with the Palestinians.
Despite the national trauma which the assassination of Rabin caused,
and although many blamed at the time the leaders of Israeli political
right for the incitement that preceded the assassination, due to the
series of suicide bombings carried out in Israel, and due to the
failed military operation "Grapes of Wrath" conducted in Lebanon that
caused many casualties among Lebanese civilians, a significant change
occurred in the position of the Israeli voters which resulted
eventually in 50.5% percent of voters supporting Netanyahu on election
day. A significant number of Israeli Arabs boycotted the elections
amidst rising Lebanese casualties, which became an advantage for
Netanyahu as the vast majority of Arabs would have supported Peres but
declined to vote. In addition, the intensive campaign conducted by
Netanyahu versus the failed campaign of Shimon Peres, as well as the
support Netanyahu got at the last moment from the
were all in Netanyahu's favor.
Netanyahu's win was bolstered by large support from the ultra-orthodox
community, 91.2% of whom voted for him. Peres on the other hand,
gained overwhelming support from the country's Arab community, 97.5%
of which backed him.
Labor Party 1 2
Tzomet 2 3
National Religious Party 4
Yisrael BaAliyah 6
United Torah Judaism
United Torah Judaism 8
The Third Way 9
United Arab List–Arab Democratic Party
Unity for the Defence of New Immigrants
Man's Rights in the Family Party
Organization for Democratic Action
Source: Nohlen et al.
1 Three MKs left the Labor Party to establish One Nation.
2 Two MKs from the Labor Party and four from
Likud left to form the
Eliezer Sandberg later broke away from the Centre Party
HaTzeirim before joining Shinui.
3 Three MKs left
Likud to establish Herut – The National Movement.
Three members of Gesher and two members of
Tzomet also left alliance.
4 Two MKs left the
National Religious Party to establish Tkuma.
Avraham Poraz left
Meretz to establish Shinui, whilst David Zucker
also left the party.
6 Two MKs left
Yisrael BaAliyah to establish Aliyah.
7 Balad left its alliance with Hadash.
United Torah Judaism
United Torah Judaism split into
Agudat Yisrael (three seats) and
Degel HaTorah (one seat).
Emanuel Zisman left The Third Way.
10 Moshe Peled broke away from
Tzomet and formed Mekhora before
James A. Baker III,
Secretary of State for
U.S. President George H. W.
Bush, worried that Netanyahu's hardliner coalition partners will be
able to boss him around and prevent him from advancing the peace
process even though the Israeli people want the peace process to
Secretary of State for
U.S. President Bill
Clinton, said that "President Clinton and [he] look forward to having
a good working relationship with [Netanyahu]" and that it appeared
"that Mr. Netanyahu was committed to pursuing the peace process."
Bill Clinton called Netanyahu and congratulated
him on his election victory. Clinton also told Arab countries not to
"pre-judge" the new Netanyahu government. Clinton invited Netanyahu to
visit the White House, and "[Clinton] affirmed the continued support
of the United States for the people of
Israel in their quest for peace
with security" in a
White House statement. The
White House decided to
consider Netanyahu's election win as a positive, despite the fact that
Clinton supported Netanyahu's opponent
Shimon Peres in this
Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican Presidential nominee, "said [that] he
could "work with [Netanyahu]" and that he was confident "that
Netanyahu was "committed to peace""
David Grossman, Israeli author, said that "Netanyahu's election shows
that at least half of the people are not really mature enough for the
peace process", since while "[t]hey want peace", "they're not willing
to make the concessions it takes."
Yossi Klein Halevi, senior writer for the
Jerusalem Report, warned
Netanyahu against implementing a right-wing agenda and attempting to
stop the peace process since
Israel is very divided and polarized
right now and most Israeli voters still support the peace process.
Michael Lerner, editor and publisher of Tikkun, speculated that
"[Netanyahu's election victory is] going to undermine the peace
process severely", and that while Netanyahu will claim that he
supports the peace process, he will "subtly underm[ine it]" whenever
he will be able to.
Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine, said that he didn't
think that Netanyahu will be able to stop the peace process
completely, but that he expects the
Palestinian Authority to have a
civil war with
Hamas after the establishment of a Palestinian state,
which would then be used by
Syria and other hostile Arab states to
intervene in Palestine and start a new war with
Israel in order "to
make one last effort to wipe the Jewish state off the map."
Leah Rabin, widow of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin, said that it is "very difficult to say what will be in the
future", but that she "think[s] Netanyahu will try [to continue the
peace process]" despite objections from hardliners in his party.
Nadav Safran, professor emeritus at Harvard University, said that
Netanyahu would take a much harder line with
Syria and the
Palestinians in negotiations, and that he will also attempt to slow
down the peace process. He said that Netanyahu's hardline positions
could start another armed conflict with the Palestinians if Netanyahu
does not show more flexibility in his positions later on.
Elie Wiesel, famous author and Holocaust survivor, said that he
"[doesn't] think that [the impact of the elections on the peace
process] will change much", since "[Netanyahu] has already said he
will respect the achievements in negotiations" and since the peace
process is irreversible. He also pointed out that while Netanyahu
talked tough, so did
Menachem Begin 20 years before that, and Begin
ended up singing a peace treaty with Egypt a couple years after he was
Despite winning the election for Prime Minister, Netanyahu's
an alliance with Gesher and Tzomet) lost the
Knesset elections to
Labour, winning only 32 seats compared to Labour's 34.
The objective of strengthening the position of Prime Minister by
having separate elections was also a failure, as the election saw both
major parties lose around ten seats compared to the 1992 election
Likud held only 24 of the 32 seats it won in its alliance) as many
Knesset votes to smaller parties; Labour received 818,570
votes to Peres' 1.47 million, (56%), whilst the
Tzomet alliance managed even less—767,178 compared
to 1.50 million for Netanyahu (51%).
With only 32 seats, the Likud–Gesher–
Tzomet alliance was, at the
time, the smallest faction to lead a government in Israeli political
history (the previous low had been Mapai's 40 seats in the 1955
election; since then, the 2006 elections saw Kadima emerge as the
largest party with just 29 seats, and the 2009 election was won by
Kadima with 28 seats, but
Likud with 27 formed the government). This
meant Netanyahu had to form a coalition with several smaller parties,
including the ultra-orthodox parties
Shas and United Torah Judaism
whose financial policies (generous child benefits and state funding
for religious activities) were in direct opposition to his
After several defections from his party, Netanyahu was forced to call
early elections in 1999.
The 14th Knesset
See also: List of members of the fourteenth Knesset
Labour retained its position as the largest party, but Likud's
Netanyahu won the election for Prime Minister, meaning he had the
power to form the 27th government, which he did on 18 June 1996.
Alongside his Likud–Gesher–
Tzomet alliance, Netanyahu formed a
coalition with Shas, the National Religious Party, Yisrael BaAliyah,
United Torah Judaism
United Torah Judaism and The Third Way, with 18 ministers.
Gesher broke away from the alliance with
Likud and left the government
coalition in January 1998.
Netanyahu faced several issues; the left argued the peace process was
advancing too slowly, but signing the Hebron Agreement and the Wye
River Memorandum also caused him problems with the right-wing.
Eventually problems passing the state budget for 1999 led to early
elections for both the
Knesset and Prime Minister being called, which
were held in May 1999.
^ At the Crossroads PBS, 30 May 1996
^ Prime Minister Netanyahu. Remember? Ma'ariv, 30 August 2005 (in
^ Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements
Archived 2017-03-02 at the Wayback Machine. Jewish Virtual Library
^ Main Points of Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty October 26, 1994 Israeli
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
^ Treaty of Peace between The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and The
Israel King Hussein website
^ accessed January 2010
^ Israeli elections will test support for peace CNN, 11 February 1996
^ Suicide bombings scar Peres' political ambitions CNN, May 28, 1996
^ Pivotal Elections: Candidates CNN, 1996
^ Israeli election is a dead heat CNN, 28 May 1996
^ Israeli race for prime minister narrows CNN, 27 May 1996
^ Rabin's widow tells Israelis: Vote for Peres CNN, 30 May 1996
^ "Razor-close race awaits absentee count". CNN. 31 May 1996. Archived
from the original on 13 August 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
^ Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001)
Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I ISBN 0-19-924958-X
^ a b c d e f g h Follow TIME Facebook Twitter Google + Tumblr
(1996-06-10). "Across The Spectrum". TIME. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
^ a b c Clifford, Timothy (1996-06-01). "Bubba Asks Bibi To Come &
Visit - New York Daily News". Articles.nydailynews.com. Retrieved
Historical overview of the Fourteenth
Elazar, Daniel Judah; Sandler, Shmuel (1998).
Israel at the Polls,
1996. Psychology Press.
Elections in Israel
Prime ministerial elections
* Assembly of Representatives elections ** Legislative