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Knesset Highlights: Thirteenth Knesset

(1992 - 1996)

The main events during the term of the 13th Knesset were the signing of the agreements with the Palestinians and of the peace treaty with Jordan, and the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Following the elections, a government headed by the Labor Party was formed. Under the new government, the course of the peace process, which the previous government had embarked upon following the Madrid Conference, changed.

After the expulsion of 415 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in December 1992, and the standstill in the Washington talks, Israel began secret negotiations with the PLO in Norway. On September 13, 1993, the Declaration of Principles was signed (Oslo I) regarding mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO,

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho and the establishment of a Palestinian Authority. The agreement raised a good deal of controversy in the general public and the Knesset, but, in a vote on a motion of no-confidence in the Knesset, brought against the background of the Declaration on September 23, 1993, 61 MKs voted against the motion and 50 in favor, with eight members abstaining and one being absent.

An additional agreement, Oslo II, was signed between Israel and the Palestinians at Taba on September 27, 1995, and, according to it, Israel agreed to withdraw from the cities in Judea and Samaria and additional areas, and it was agreed that elections would be held for a Palesitnian Authority. Against the background of the Taba Agreement there was a wave of demonstrations, some of them violent, against the government and its policy.

At the end of a counter-demonstration, by supporters of the peace process, which was held at Kikar Malchei Yisrael in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, a Jewish assassin who acted independently. The traumatic event caused deep shock in the state, and was strongly condemned by most parts of the population, despite widespread opposition to the government's policy.

The rise in the number of the victims of terrorist attacks performed by members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad following the signing of the various agreements between Israel and the Palestinians were frequently brought up in the Knesset by the opposition, especially following the terrorist wave of February/March 1996.

The Jordanian-Israeli Peace Agreement, which hardly raised any controversy, was signed in the Arava on 26 October, 1994. The Agreement was approved by the Knesset one day before the signing ceremony by a majority of 105, with three MKs voting against and six abstaining. The future of the Golan Heights was also at the center of the public debate, even though no progress was made in the negotiations with Syria.

Against the background of the Labor leaders' willingness to withdraw from the Golan within the framework of a peace agreement with Syria, two of its MKs - Avigdor Kahalani and Emanuel Zissman - broke away from the Labor Party and established the Third Way.

Against the background of the upheaval in the Histadrut, following the Histadrut elections in May 1994, which were won by Haim Ramon, who ran against the official Labor candidate, the Knesset enacted, after many years of abortive attempts, a National Health Insurance Law. The new law cancelled the link between membership in the Histadrut and membership in its health fund - Kupat Holim Klalit.

Amongst the economic issues dealt with by the 13th Knesset were the privatization of government owned companies and the sale of the bank shares held by the government, and the government's intention to impose a tax on stock market eanings at the beginning of 1995.

What exemplified the debates on the budget laws during the term of the 13th Knesset were the Filibusters introduced by members of the opposition, when in the debate on the 1993 budget, MK Michael Eitan (Likud) spoke non-stop for more than ten hours. Other dramatic issues dealt with by the Knesset were the massacre of 29 Palestinians by a Jewish doctor at the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron; and the affair of Rabbi Uzi Meshulam, which reopened the issue of the Yemenite children who disappeared in the early years of the state.

A national commission of inquiry was appointed to investigate the issue. The Knesset plenum and its committees also dealt with the issue of violence in the family and amongst youths, and the status of women. The introduction of primaries in th major parties to a large extent changed the patterns of behavior of many MKs in the 13th Knesset.

Sources: The Knesset