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Knesset Highlights: Sixteenth Knesset

(2003 - 2006)

The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Knessets were elected under the two ballot tickets system – one ballot ticket for the Knesset and the other for the Prime Minister, while the Sixteenth Knesset was once again elected under the old system of a single ticket. The Likud, headed by Ariel Sharon, won a sweeping victory with 38 mandates, compared to 19 received by the second largest party – Labor-Meimad. After the Yisrael Be’aliyah parliamentary group merged with the Likud, a quarter of the Members of the Knesset were members of the Likud parliamentary group. Nevertheless, the Sixteenth Knesset did not enjoy stability, and towards the end of its term the Likud broke up into two parliamentary groups: the Likud, and Kadima.

Formally one government served during the term of the Sixteenth Knesset, but in fact there were three governments. The first was a Center-Right Government with the participation of the Likud, Shinui, the National Religious Party and the National Union. It started to fall apart in the middle of 2004, against the background of the presentation of the disengagement plan, and finally disintegrated towards the end of the year, against the background of the 2005 budget. The second was a Center-Left Government with the participation of the Likud and Labor-Meimad, with the United Torah Judaism being a member of the coalition but not of the Government. This Government implemented the disengagement plan. After the implementation the Likud split in two, and the Kadima Party was formed. The third was a government made up of a single parliamentary group – Kadima. It served as a transition government, and most of its service was after the hospitalization of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Despite the achievements of the Sixteenth Knesset in the sphere of legislation, and even though it contended with honor with drastic policy changes by the Government with regards to the disengagement plan, the economic policy, and reforms in the education system, it was the Knesset with the poorest image since1949. This was due to the large number of criminal charges brought against Members of the Knesset, but especially as a result of the double votes on the night of May 18, 2003, which led the Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, to call the police into the House. This scandal led to enhancing the introduction of a new electronic voting system, and the establishment of a public committee, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Prof. Yitzhak Zamir, to draft a code of ethics for Members of the Knesset.

In the course of the Sixteenth Knesset there was vigorous activity in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee towards the introduction of a Constitution by Agreement. Even though the job was not completed, significant progress was made. Upon the opening of the Winter Session in 2004, the Knesset TV Channel started broadcasting 24 hours a day on week days. The construction of the new Knesset wing, whose planning began in the course of the Fifteenth Knesset, made immense progress. In the course of the Sixteenth Knesset an underground parking lot for those frequenting the House was opened, and in November 2005 several Knesset departments started to move into part of the Kedmah Wing, whose construction was completed.

Sources: The Knesset