Israeli legislative election, 1981

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Elections for the 10th Knesset
Israel
← 1977 30 June 1981 1984 →
Party Leader % Seats ±
Likud Menachem Begin 37.1% 48 +5
Alignment Shimon Peres 36.6% 47 +15
Mafdal Yosef Burg 4.9% 6 -6
Agudat Yisrael Avraham Yosef Shapira 3.7% 4 0
Hadash Meir Vilner 3.4% 4 -1
Tehiya Yuval Ne'eman 2.3% 3 New
Tami Aharon Abuhatzira 2.3% 3 New
Telem Moshe Dayan 1.6% 2 New
Shinui Amnon Rubinstein 1.5% 2
Ratz Shulamit Aloni 1.4% 1 0
This lists parties that won seats. See the complete results below.
Prime Minister before Prime Minister after
Menachem Begin
Likud
Menachem Begin
Likud

Elections for Israel’s tenth Knesset, the legislative body, were held on 30 June 1981. The election resulted in a virtual tie between the two most prominent parties in Israel, the Likud and the Labor-Mapam Alignment (the Alignment). The Likud won 48 of the 120 Knesset seats, while the Alignment won 47 seats. These results were a surprise, as polls[1] and political momentum initially suggested that the Alignment would win roughly half of the votes while the Likud would only get twenty percent. There was a 78.5%[2] participation rate, with just over ten thousand votes marking the difference between the Likud and the Alignment.[2] This election highlighted the polarization in the country, with evidence of ethnic, social, and political divide.[3]

Results[edit]

Party Votes % Seats +/−
Likud 1 718,941 37.1 48 +3
Alignment 1 4 708,536 36.6 47 +15
National Religious Party 2 5 95,232 4.9 6 −6
Agudat Yisrael 72,312 3.7 4 0
Hadash 64,918 3.4 4 −1
Tehiya 44,700 2.3 3 New
Tami 44,466 2.3 3 New
Telem 3 30,600 1.6 2 New
Shinui 29,837 1.5 2 New
Ratz 4 27,921 1.4 1 0
Poalei Agudat Yisrael 17,090 0.9 0 −1
Independent Liberals 11,764 0.6 0 −1
United Arab List 11,590 0.6 0 −1
Development and Peace 10,823 0.6 0 −1
Left Camp of Israel 8,691 0.4 0 −2
Arab Brotherhood List 8,304 0.4 0 New
List for Aliyah 6,992 0.4 0 New
Kach 5,128 0.3 0 0
Independence 4,710 0.2 0 New
One Israel 3,726 0.2 0 New
Arab Citizens' List 2,596 0.1 0 New
Pensioners' List (Led by Miriam Gehatya) 2,404 0.1 0 New
Unity Party 1,293 0.1 0 New
Ya'ad 1,228 0.1 0 New
Otzma 839 0.0 0 New
Tent Movement 545 0.0 0 New
Abolish Income Tax 503 0.0 0 New
Amkha 460 0.0 0 New
Youth Movement 412 0.0 0 New
Council to Rescue the Homeland 405 0.0 0 New
Initiative - Independents Movement 400 0.0 0 New
Invalid/blank votes 17,243
Total 1,937,366 100 120 0
Source: Nohlen et al.

1 Two MKs defected from Likud to the Alignment.

2 Haim Drukman left the National Religious Party and sat as an independent MK.

3 Telem split into Ometz and the Movement for the Renewal of Social Zionism.

4 Ratz joined the Alignment but then broke away again.

5 Two MKs left the National Religious Party and formed Gesher – Zionist Religious Centre before returning to the NRP two weeks later.

Background[edit]

Israel's Election System[edit]

Israel’s Knesset is elected through a proportional representation system, the closed list. In 1973 Israel adopted the d’Hondt formula, a method for distributing surplus seats in proportional representation systems. The multi-party system produced a growing instability leading up to the 1981 legislative elections, with frequent party shifts and factions amongst coalitions. In Israel, a party must win 61 seats in order to achieve a majority. This has not yet occurred in Israel’s history, meaning each ruling government has been composed of party coalitions.[4] Since 1965 Israel had been on a path of party oversimplification, with political parties abandoning attempts to frame moral issues in favor of spreading wider nets to catch a bigger range of voters. Rather than focusing on controversial issues that divided them, parties took to forming clusters that resorted to “emotive catchwords” and the lowest common denominators.[5] The party clusters had set aside fundamental ideals in order to work together, which meant that infighting amongst the coalitions was inevitable.[5]

Instability[edit]

Israel’s government faced instability leading up to the 1981 elections because of internal conflict amongst legislative parties and international pressures. A relatively new country, Israel had faced economic crises, social tensions, security threats, and growing world isolation. The Likud’s 1977 government failed to address these issues; the ninth Knesset had factions within the government, issues with corruption, and failed to pass legislation.[5] Discontent with the state was growing, and 40% of people agreed that "the major problems facing the state and the entire political system must be changed and a strong government of leaders and independent of parties should take control".[6] Following this dissatisfaction there were high expectations of Likud’s continuing decline.

The Likud's Comeback[edit]

Scholars attribute the Likud’s comeback, from its lowest point six months prior to the 1981 legislative election, to five main factors: incumbency, candidates, images, campaigns, violence, and ethnicity.[7]

Incumbency[edit]

Likud’s role as the controlling party in the Knesset enabled the party to use its incumbency advantage to increase popularity with policy implementation. Likud implemented tax programs that lowered prices for Israeli consumers, subsidized oil products at a higher rate than ever before, and used foreign policy that made the Alignment seem unpatriotic if they argued against the moves.[7]

Candidates[edit]

Menachem Begin, Likud’s most popular candidate, served as a strong factor for the Likud’s resurgence. 40.7%[8] of national adult Jewish persons responded in favor of seeing Begin as prime minister, with 49%[8] saying Begin would better be able to deal with the country’s problems. The Alignment, whose announcement of potential major ministerial appointments failed to include Yitzhak Rabin, left the impression of a power-hungry group of politicians, with animosity between party leaders Shimon Peres and Rabin.[7]

Images[edit]

Public perception of the parties (see Table 1), or the images held of these parties, became instrumental in this election. Throughout the 1981 election the Alignment was seen and painted as the establishment party, considered by 48% of Israeli citizens surveyed to be more old-fashioned, despite its opposition to the government for the four years prior. The Alignment was also seen as self-interested by rather than interested in the good of the people, as well as corrupt. The Likud, meanwhile, was seen as slightly stronger (50% as compared with the Alignment’s 44%), more honest (57%), and more concerned with the fate of the citizens than that of the party (45%). The Likud was able to benefit from having only been created 8 years prior, giving it an image of newness and innocence.[7]

Table 1: Party Images[9]
Ideal Alignment Likud
Strong/weak 93/92 44/33 50/33
Right/left 55/13 28/40 77/7
Old-fashioned/progressive 15/61 48/26 42/31
Middle class/working class 28/32 27/42 55/14
Young/old 52/10 17/51 28/35
Sephardi/Ashkenazi 11/11 6/47 18/25
Worries about itself/the citizens 3/89 43/37 31/45
Inexperienced/experienced 4/86 4/79 45/38
Honest/corrupt 35/39 57/18
Cannot/can be believed 36/42 32/48

Violence[edit]

A main factor of the 1981 elections, and what they will be most remembered for, is the political violence that came about during the campaigns. Police noted mere weeks before election day that “there hasn’t been an election campaign in Israel as violent as the present one”.[10] A reason for the violence may have been that this was the first election in which the public believed both sides had a chance to win, causing unrest and agitation.[11]

Ethnic Divide[edit]

The 1981 elections saw a rise in the use of ethnic ideas within political rhetoric.[12] While the Likud and the Alignment are both led by Ashkenazi politicians, the Alignment was considered the party of the Ashkenazi Jews, with the Sephardic vote lost to the Likud (see party images in Table 1). These two major parties of the 1981 election were considered ethnic parties, specifically in the fact that the social basis for voting for each party was based more in ethnicity than ever before. The likelihood of Sephardim to vote for the Likud while Ashkenazim vote for the Alignment had become more pronounced than ever before.[13] In 1981, the Likud enjoyed the advantage of being able to appeal to a significant amount of Ashkenazi voters while maintaining their Sephardi popularity, while the Alignment was seen as even less Sephardi than in previous years.[13]

The Tenth Knesset[edit]

The Tenth Knesset saw a growth in the strength of both major parties, reaching 95 of the 120-person Knesset,[3] and with the Likud winning by just one seat.

The Nineteenth Government[edit]

Menachim Begin (of the Likud) became Prime Minister and in August 1981 included the National Religious Party, Agudat Yisrael, the Movement for the Heritage of Israel (Tami) and Tehiya in his coalition to form the nineteenth government.[2]

The Twentieth Government[edit]

After Begin resigned due to health reasons, Yitzhak Shamir formed the twentieth government in October 1983, with the same coalition parties.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Silver, Eric (1981-06-30). "Labour leads on eve of Israeli poll". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-04-28. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Factional and Government Make-Up of the Tenth Knesset". 
  3. ^ a b Arian, Asher (1983). The Elections in Israel, 1981. Israel: Ramot Publishing Co. 
  4. ^ "Israeli Electoral History". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2017-04-28. 
  5. ^ a b c Mendilow, Jonathan (1983). "Party Clustering in Multi-Party Systems: The Example of Israel (1965-1981)". American Journal of Political Science XXVII: 64–85. 
  6. ^ Hasin, E. (1981). Survey conducted by M. Zemach. January 1981, quoted in "The Israeli Democracy: The Beginning of the End?" Monition 30:73-75.
  7. ^ a b c d Arian, Asher (1983). The Elections in Israel, 1981. Ramot Publishing Co. pp. 1–5. 
  8. ^ a b Survey by Dahaf Research Institute, June 1981, N=1237
  9. ^ Arian, Asher (April 1981). "Israeli Election Study, 1981". Israel Institute of Applied Social Research. 
  10. ^ Salpeter, Eliahu. " A Scary Face in the Mirror." Haaretz, 19 June 1981, p.14.
  11. ^ Lehman-Wilzig, Sam (1983). "Thunder Before The Storm: Pre-Election Agitation And Post-Election Turmoil". The Elections in Israel, 1983: 207. 
  12. ^ Hanna Herzog, 'The Ethnic Lists to the Delegates' Assembly and the Knesset (1920 1977) Ethnic Political Identity?' Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Tel-Aviv University, 1981.
  13. ^ a b Shamir, Michal; Arian, Asher. "The ethnic vote in Israel's 1981 elections". Electoral Studies. 1 (3): 315–331. doi:10.1016/0261-3794(82)90221-9. 

External links[edit]