With 100 percent of all the ballots counted aside from those
of soldiers and diplomats, the Likud Party has won 37 (19 in
previous Knesset) seats in the 16th Knesset, while Labor has
won 19 (25). The Shinui Party got 15 (6) seats, Shas got 11
(17), the rightist National Union 7, left-wing Meretz 6 (10),
United Torah Judaism 5 (5), and the National Religious Party,
5 (5). Yisrael B'Aliya headed by Natan Sharansky won 2 (6)
seats, Am Echad 4 (2) seats and the Arab parties a combined 9
The nationwide voter turnout was an all-time low of 68.5
percent. For the last parliamentary election in 1999, nearly
79 percent of eligible Israelis cast votes. The voter turnout
in Jerusalem was higher than the national average, with 72
percent casting ballots, the Central Elections Committee
The overall participation was the lowest rate in the
country's history as some 3.2 million out of 4.7 citizens
voted. Up until now the lowest turnout was in 1951 when 75
percent of the 925,000 eligible voters cast their ballot.
Also, in the special elections for prime minister that took
place two years ago, only 62 percent of those eligible went
to the polls.
In terms of percentages, some of the results were as follows:
Likud Party 30.8, Labor 15.8, Shinui 12.5, Shas 9.2, National
Union 5.9, Meretz 5, United Torah Judaism 4.1, National
Religious Party 4.1.
The most votes among the parties that apparently did not make
it into the Knesset were received by Herut which got 34,000
votes, just over 1 percent. The threshold of 1.5 percent is
expected to be over 46,000 votes. Behind Herut was Green Leaf
with 31,000 votes, just under 1 percent. Ahavat Yisrael, the
party of HaRav Yitzhak Kadourie, received just over 5,000
Sharon thus became the first Israeli prime minister to win re-
election since the 1980s. Over the past 20 years, Yitzhak
Shamir, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak were
not reelected to another term. Prime Minister Rabin was
murdered in office. Results are expected to be officially
announced on Thursday and published next Tuesday. The Knesset
is scheduled to convene first on February 17, but the
government may be formed several weeks later.
Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna called Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon to congratulate him on his election victory within a
few minutes of the polls' closing. The two also decided they
would meet, officials said. Mitzna and other Labor officials
reiterated after the elections that they would not join a
government led by Sharon.
Sharon said over and over that he wants another unity
government similar to that which Labor broke up in late
October. He has threatened to call new elections if he cannot
form such a government.
Meretz leader Yossi Sarid has resigned his leadership of the
party. Despite the addition of Yossi Beilin to the ranks of
Meretz, the party suffered a resounding fall. Meretz MK
Zehava Gal-On said the results "constitute a collapse of the
peace camp" in Israel.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reacted to the election results
with "guarded happiness," an aide said. "We can take joy in
victory but there is no room for celebration," Sharon said in
a later statement. Once terrorism is defeated, "then together
we can celebrate the victory of Israel," Sharon said, adding
that "the people want unity."
Nearly 8,000 polling stations opened at 7 A.M. on Tuesday,
with 4,720,074 Israelis eligible to vote in the election. All
Israeli citizens with valid Israeli identity cards were
eligible to vote, regardless of their permanent residence.
In his statement to his own Labor party, leader Amram Mitzna
said, "There's no shame to being in the opposition and I
promise you our time there will be brief. Sharon wants the
Labor party to be his fig leaf. We will not join him, but aim
to replace him. I don't intend to give up our path for
ministerial seats." Shimon Peres also said that there is no
basis for a unity government.
Israel imposed a total closure Sunday on the West Bank and
Gaza Strip until after the elections, following warnings that
Palestinian terrorists planned attacks on Election Day. Over
the weekend, Israeli troops carried out two large-scale
operations in the Gaza Strip in response to Palestinian
rocket attacks on Israeli communities within Gaza and inside
Israel. At least 12 Palestinians were killed and dozens
wounded during a clash with Israeli soldiers in Gaza City on
Sunday. In what was described as the deepest military
incursion into Gaza City in two years, Israeli troops
targeted Palestinian weapons factories. Boruch Hashem
there were no serious incidents on the day of the elections.
There is no doubt that the Palestinians would have preferred
other election results.
Leor Horev, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the
PM expressed apprehension about his success in beginning to
build a coalition government based on the election
Sharon has said that he will not take the National Union into
the government. That leaves him with the following assumed
partners: Shas (11), United Torah Judaism (5), the National
Religious Party (5) and Yisrael B'Aliya 2, for a total of 60
seats. Although he could count on the National Union and
Shinui to support him in most of the major votes, the day-to-
day running of the government would be very difficult as the
government would probably be defeated on many minor votes.
Also passing the annual budget would be extremely
Am Echad (4) might join but that would still leave Sharon at
the mercy of most of his coalition partners -- a very
uncomfortable position and one that Sharon has said that he
will not accept.
Though Shinui has insisted all along that it will not sit in
a government with religious parties, it appeared to soften
its stand after the elections saying that it might sit in an
"emergency" government with religious parties. None of the
religious parties has said that it will not sit with Shinui
though clearly they would impose conditions upon it such as
toning down the rhetoric. Shinui wants to form a "secular"
government composed of Likud, Shinui and Labor, believing
that it could thereby implement its program of removing the
Jewish identity from the State of Israel.
Official results will not be in until late Thursday, and it
will be some time next week until Sharon is officially given
the task of forming the government. Sharon is a consummate
back room politician, and he may be able to find some
combination, though the situation does not seem
Leftist pundits do not tire of saying that the country backs
the policies of the Left, including a Palestinian State and
dismantling settlements, but they cannot understand why, if
so, they do not vote for them. They conclude that the Israeli
people want the Right to carry out the policies of the
The truth is that the pundits do not seem to be able to
differentiate dream from reality. Though no one doubts that
Mitzna is sincere in wishing to withdraw unilaterally from
Gaza, most Israelis see that he could never do so, nor could
he dismantle settlements.
No one in what is called the Left has offered a realistic
alternative to Sharon. The Left only talks to itself. Even
after more than two years of violence, there is not one
credible Palestinian voice that has called for a cessation of
the violence. The assessment of the current government is
that the presence of Arafat, his obvious personal commitment
to violence and his control of the Palestinian institutions,
make it practically impossible for any Palestinian to suggest
an alternative. Therefore they insist that he must go.
Shinui seems to have drawn voters from Labor and Meretz. It
does not stand for anything besides opposition to chareidim.
Rabbi Uri Lapoliansky told Yated that he expected that
it would not last very long. If there is another election
soon, it will probably lost seats as many of its voters would
return to one of the major parties. Every few years a new
party forms that draws the disaffected protest vote, but it
soon dissolves after it becomes clear that it has no magic
Ironically, Labor's situation seems a mirror of what Likud
underwent after losing big to Ehud Barak in 1999. Then the
pundits said that the reason for the loss was that the Likud
failed to come to grips with the new reality created by the
Oslo Agreements. Now it appears that the Likud won because
those agreements collapsed and Labor has not come to terms
with things as they now are.
The violence continues. On the Sunday before the elections,
the IDF Spokesperson said there were 5,055 injured, 724
killed and 16,209 violent Palestinian attacks from 29
September 2000 through 25 January 2003. This does not include
most of the incidents of rock throwing and Molotov