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Elections in Israel 1996, The

Asher Arian, Michal Shamir

Publication Year: 1999

Leading American and Israeli social scientists discuss the precedent-setting events of Israel’s 1996 elections. Leading social scientists from Israeli and American universities, using different methods and representing diverse intellectual traditions, address the precedent-setting events of Israel’s 1996 elections. The contributors discuss the meaning of collective identity, the role of religion and nationalism in modern Israel, the political behavior of Israeli Arabs, the secrets of success of the immigrant party. Also discussed are issues such as the impact of the direct election law on party organization, primaries and coalition-formation calculations, the repeated electoral failure of Shimon Peres, and the role of the media in the election campaign. The 1996 elections in Israel represented a “first” in Israeli politics in many ways. For the first time Israelis directly elected their prime minister and, in simultaneous but separate elections, they elected their 120-member Knesset (parliament). Also, it was the first time that elections were held after the mutual recognition of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization following the Oslo accords and it was the first election held after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rubin. The political parties made widespread use of primaries in 1996, and hundreds of thousands of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union cast their first ballots. The large support for a party supported by former-Soviet immigrants highlighted the emergence of sectarian interests. This was also expressed in the surge for the two Arab parties from five seats in 1992 to nine seats in 1996, and for the three Jewish religious parties whose combined representation grew from 16 to 23 seats.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies


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pp. 1-24

The May 29,1996, elections represented a "first" in many senses. It was the first time that Israelis directly elected their prime minister, and in simultaneous but separate elections they elected their 120-member Knesset (parliament)...


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1. Elections as a Battleground over Collective Identity

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pp. 27-44

For the first time in the history of Israel, an election was held not only to determine which parties will rule Israel and what policies in diverse areas will be adopted, but also which part of Israel's split sociopolitical identity will dominate. The Israeli collective identity and sociopolitical order includes two basic orientations...

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2. Collective Identity in the 1996 Election

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pp. 45-66

Electoral behavior in advanced industrial democracies has become less structured by social cleavages, while issue voting has become more important in the calculus of voters, and on the overall our ability to predict the vote has declined (Barnes 1997; Dalton, Flanagan, and Beck 1984; Dalton and Wattenberg 1993; Franklin, Mackie, Valen et al. 1992; Rose and McAllister 1986). This generalization applies to Israel as well, but only in part...

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3. Religion and the Politics of Inclusion: The Success of the Ultra-Orthodox Parties

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pp. 67-84

In the days and weeks immediately following the elections to the Israeli fourteenth parliament, many declarations were made by members of all the political parties, by way of interpreting the results of the elections. One of the most notable statements, if not the most controversial, was made by a prominent member...

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4. The Odd Group Out: The Arab-Palestinian Vote in the 1996 Elections

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pp. 85-116

The May 1996 elections exposed more than ever the cleavages that divide Israel's society along economic, ethnic, religious, cultural, and national lines. The isomorphism of political and social groupingswhich had begun to take on a more definite form in the late 1970s and early 1980s, first among Arabs and then among Jews-was accelerated before the 1996 elections due to three factors: the massive immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union...

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5. Determining Factors of the Vote among Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union

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pp. 117-136

Unlike other immigrant-based countries, Israel grants new immigrants immediate participation rights in the political system. New immigrants can vote and be elected upon arrival, thus giving new immigrants equal citizenship rights with native-born Israelis. Interestingly, granting of immediate rights was never debated throughout Israeli history. Even in the 1950s, when many of the immigrants lacked formal education, did not speak Hebrew...

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6. "Old" versus "New" Politics in the 1996 Elections

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pp. 137-160

Among the most noted and studied developments of recent decades have been those associated with sweeping social changes leading to the emergence of "new politics" in industrial societies. The "new politics" syndrome emerged in a new world, where affluence replaced poverty, where consumer goods once considered...


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7. The Electoral Consequences of Political Reform:In Search of the Center of the Israeli Party System

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pp. 163-186

One of the most significant ramifications resulting from the first implementation of the new Basic Law: The Government (1992), which calls for the direct election of the prime minister, is a dramatic change in the competitive electoral orientation of the Israeli party system. It was expected that direct elections would force...

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8. The Likud's Double Campaign: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

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pp. 187-210

Electoral campaigns, like theatrical dramas, open with the rise of the curtain but do not begin with it. The meaning and significance of the plot require expository explanation, which sets out what happened previously, who the protagonists are, and the how and why that reside behind processes that culminate in the denouement...

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9. Peres the Leader, Peres the Politician

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pp. 211-240

"I have not failed," claimed Shimon Peres several weeks after the 1996 elections, when Benjamin Netanyahu became leader of the new government (Yediot Aharonot, July 5,1996). A short time prior to this, while opening his last cabinet meeting, Peres chose to describe Rabin and himself as victims of the process of change they initiated and led: Rabin paid with his life, Peres with the leadership of the State of Israel. Peres's political history is strewn with electoral defeats...

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10. The Party Primaries and Their Political Consequences

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pp. 241-268

In the 1990s, a new stage was reached in the development of selection methods of candidates for parties in Israel.' The Labor Party, which had transferred to its members the role of selecting its Knesset candidates' list in 1992, was joined by the Likud, which adopted a similar method of primaries, and by the Meretz alliance...

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11. The Bias of Pluralism: The Redistributive Effects of the New Electoral Law

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pp. 269-294

On March 18, 1992, on its last day before disbanding, the Knesset changed the electoral system in Israel. This momentous institutional change was implemented in the fourteenth general election on May 29, 1996...

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12. Balance in Election Coverage

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pp. 295-312

Accusations about biased news coverage are ubiquitous features of election periods. Arguments over whether one candidate or party receives more or better coverage than another have become as much a ritual of the voting period as the bunting, the speeches, the rallies, the jingles, the political ads, and the public opinion polls. One side claims that it is being shortchanged, the journalists...


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pp. 313-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780791495223
E-ISBN-10: 0791495221
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791442371
Print-ISBN-10: 0791442373

Page Count: 318
Publication Year: 1999

Series Title: SUNY series in Israeli Studies