Barak Wins Race For Prime Minister, Major Parties Lose Ground in Knesset
(May 18, 1999)
Barak won a majority of the Jewish vote (51.5%-48.3%), but the margin of victory was clearly attributable to the overwhelming support 94.3% he got from non-Jews. In Jerusalem (64.5%-35.4%), the West Bank (81.4%-18.5%), and Gaza Strip (92%-7.9%), Netanyahu won convincingly; however, he lost badly in the other major cities (Tel Aviv, 64.2%-35.6%; Haifa, 67.8%-32.1%) and the Golan Heights (58.5%-41.4%).
The One Israel slate (composed of the Labor, Meimad, and Gesher parties) headed by Barak garnered the most votes, but still won only 22% of the 120 seats at stake. In fact, this coalition won only 26 seats compared to the 34 Labor alone had in the 14th Knesset. This is the lowest number of seats the party has ever held since the founding of Israel.
The results for the Likud were even worse. The party had 32 seats in the previous Knesset and won only 19 this time. The last time the party had so few seats was in the 9th Knesset. The other big losers in this election were the Tsomet and Third Way parties, which failed to win any seats.
The Center Party formed this year with Yitzhak Mordechai as its leader also had a disappointing showing, winning only 6 seats. Mordechai dropped out of the race for Prime Minister at the last minute when it was clear he had no chance to win and his decision is viewed as having helped Barak win.
A number of groups and parties did very well in this election. The religious Shas party's representation jumped from 10 to 17 seats despite its leader, Aryeh Deri, being recently convicted of serious crimes. Some analysts believe the election result may have been a backlash of religious voters' outraged by what they viewed as the unjust prosecution of Deri.
Instead of two Arab parties (Hadash and the Democratic Arab Party) with nine seats, the new Knesset will have 10 members from three parties Hadash (3), the United Arab List (5) and the National Democratic Alliance (2). The left of center Shinui party also increased its strength from one to six seats.
The growing population from the former Soviet Union also showed its strength in this election by raising the number of seats of its representatives from 7 to 10. This constituency also fragmented, however, with Natan Sharansky's Yisrael b'Aliyah party winning six seats, and the new Yisrael Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman (who endorsed Netanyahu) taking the remaining four.
One other major change in the makeup of the new Knesset is the increase in the number of female members from 9 to 14. Among this group is the first Arab woman to join the Knesset, Husniya Jabara, from Taibeh, who received the 10th Knesset slot on the Meretz Party list. This is the largest number of women ever to serve in the Israeli parliament.
FINAL ELECTION RESULTS
Note: The remaining lists obtained less than the required minimum for election (1.5% of the total vote):
Source: Jerusalem Post, (May 17, 1999); CNN, (May 18, 1999), Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Haaretz, (May 19, 1999)