Prime ministerial election
The elections for Prime Minister resulted in a surprise victory for Benjamin 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 Shimon Peres win, spawning the phrase "went to sleep with Peres, woke up with Netanyahu". Although Peres lost the prime ministerial vote - his fourth and last defeat as Labor leader - Labor emerged as the largest party in the Knesset, winning two more seats than the Likud-Gesher-Tzomet alliance.
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 Palestinian state.
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, witnessed by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Prime Minister 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 West Bank and Gaza Strip 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.
On 4 November 1995, at the end of a rally in support of the Oslo agreements held in the center of Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated. The murderer, Yigal Amir, a right-wing Jewish radical, was a law student at the Bar-Ilan University who fanatically opposed the Prime Minister's peace initiative, particularly the signing 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 Jerusalem.
The table below lists the parliamentary factions represented in the 13th Knesset.
|Name||Ideology||Symbol||Leader||1992 result||Seats at 1995|
|Labor||Social democracy||||Shimon Peres||34.7%|
|Mafdal||Religious Zionism||?||Zvulun Hammer||5.0%|
|UTJ||Religious conservatism||?||Avraham Yosef Shapira||3.3%|
|Mada||Israeli Arab Interests||||Abdulwahab Darawshe||1.6%|
|Third Way||Centrism||||Avigdor Kahalani||-|
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 Chabad movement, were all in Netanyahu's favor.
|Shimon Peres||Labor Party||1,471,566||49.50|
|Source: Nohlen et al.|
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.
|National Religious Party||240,271||7.87||9||+3|
|United Torah Judaism||98,657||3.23||4||0|
|The Third Way||96,474||3.16||4||New|
|Unity for the Defence of New Immigrants||22,741||0.75||0||New|
|Man's Rights in the Family Party||2,338||0.08||0||New|
|Da'am Workers Party||1,351||0.04||0||New|
|Source: CEC, Nohlen et al.|
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 gave their Knesset votes to smaller parties; Labour received 818,570 votes to Peres' 1.47 million, (56%), whilst the Likud-Gesher-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 National Religious Party, Yisrael BaAliyah the Third Way and the two 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 capitalistic outlook.
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. Gesher broke away from the alliance with Likud and left the government coalition in January 1998. Netanyahu was forced to call early elections in 1999 due to problems passing the state budget.
During the Knesset term several new parties were created by defecting MKs. Three MKs left the Labor Party to establish One Nation; Two MKs from the Labor Party and four from Likud left to form the Centre Party (Eliezer Sandberg later broke away from the Centre Party and formed HaTzeirim before joining Shinui, a new party created by Avraham Poraz after he left Meretz); three other Likud MKs left to establish Herut - The National Movement; three members of Gesher and two members of Tzomet also left alliance. Two MKs left the National Religious Party to establish Tkuma; two MKs left Yisrael BaAliyah to establish Aliyah; and Moshe Peled broke away from Tzomet and formed Mekhora before joining Moledet.