Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update
    Elections in Israel May 1999
Special Update

The purpose of this special update is to periodically inform the interested public regarding the upcoming Israeli elections. As a service of the Israel Foreign Ministry, this publication will endeavor to provide basic and current information on the democratic process in Israel, without promoting any candidate or party in particular.

Updated May 20, 1999

Final Results

 Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update
 Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update

First vote in the Israeli 1999 elections cast by the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand –
(Wellington, May 5).

In the two days preceding the elections, three of the candidates for prime minister withdrew from the race:

  • Azmi Bishara, MK (National Democratic Alliance)
  • Yitzhak Mordechai, MK (Center)
  • Ze’ev Benjamin Begin, MK (National Unity)

    leaving only two candidates in the running:

  • Benjamin Netanyahu, incumbent Prime Minister (Likud)
  • Ehud Barak, MK (One Israel)

    1. The Electoral System: The Knesset Votes for Early Election
    2. The Knesset Race: Background Information
    3. Eligibility Requirements for Voters/Voter Register
    4. Eligibility Requirements for Knesset Candidates
    5. Eligibility Requirements for the Prime Minister
    6. The Prime Ministerial Race: Meet the Candidates
    7. Party Registration and Party List
    8. Candidates for the 15th Knesset
    9. Campaigning Regulations
    10. Election Finance: Background Information
    11. Election Day Background Information and Voting Procedures (GPO)
    12. Elections 1999 – Timetable
    13. On-line election information
    14. What Happens Now?
       Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update

    The Electoral System: The Knesset Votes for Early Elections

    On January 4, the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) voted to conduct early elections for Prime Minister and Knesset members on May 17, 1999. The elections were originally scheduled to take place in October 2000, but the political situation in Israel has led both legislators and ministers to support the holding of elections within a few months. The following is an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post of January 5, 1999:

    "In the final step toward early elections, the 14th Knesset voted overwhelmingly last night [January 4] to dissolve itself and hold a new ballot on May 17, formally cutting short the term of the Netanyahu government by one year and five months. The 85-27 vote, with one abstention, also marks the official start of the campaign season.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supported the bill on first reading two weeks ago to show he was an initiator of early elections, absented himself from the vote on the second and third readings, taking his seat just after the results were announced. Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon and Shas leader Aryeh Deri were also absent.

    In another vote, the Knesset then passed a law that calls for elections to be held within 90 days instead of 60 in the event that the government falls in a no-confidence vote. The law also states that no-confidence motions cannot be submitted 120 days before a set election day.

    The early elections bill was passed despite last-ditch efforts by nationalistic elements, including the National Religious Party and settlers, to torpedo it. Instead, the bill won greater support last night, after passing in its first reading by 81-30.

    All nine NRP and nine Shas MKs voted against the bill, in addition to Justice Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, Health Minister Yehoshua Matza, and several Likud MKs. Uzi Landau (Likud) abstained. Yisrael Ba’aliya’s Michael Nudelman and Marina Solodkin also voted against, as did Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism). Renegade Laborite Rafik Haj-Yihye, whose political future is uncertain, did not arrive for the vote.

    Law Committee chairman Hanan Porat (NRP) called on the Knesset to stop its work on March 17 and not before, due to the primaries. He emphasized that the government remains in office, and only elections are being advanced."

    The Knesset Race: Background Information

    The framework of the Israeli electoral system is defined in Article 4 of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which states:

    "The Knesset shall be elected by general, national, direct, equal, secret and proportional elections, in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law; this section shall not be varied save by a majority of the members of the Knesset."

    • General: Every Israeli citizen aged 18 or older has the right to vote, and every citizen aged 21 or older is eligible for election to the Knesset. (The president, state comptroller, judges and senior public officials, as well as the chief-of-staff and high-ranking military officers, may not stand for election to the Knesset unless they have resigned their position at least 100 days before the elections.)

    • National: The entire country constitutes a single electoral constituency.

    • Direct: The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, is elected directly by the voters, not through a body of electors.

    • Equal: All votes cast are equal in weight.

    • Secret: Elections are by secret ballot.

    • Proportional: The 120 Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. However, the minimum required for a party to win a Knesset seat is 1.5% of the total votes cast.

    In the past, the task of forming a government and heading it as prime minister was assigned by the president to the Knesset Member considered to have the best chance of forming a viable coalition government in light of the Knesset election results. This resulted in a situation which accorded undue influence to small factions which, in return for their support of the coalition, made demands inconsistent with their relative size. In order to prevent this, in 1992 the Knesset enacted legislation providing for the direct election of prime minister.

    The new version of the Basic Law: The Government entered into effect with the 1996 elections, and, together with relevant amendments to the Basic Law: The Knesset and the Knesset Election Law, inaugurated a new electoral system in Israel. For the first time, two separate ballots were cast, simultaneously: one for the political party chosen by the voter to represent him/her in the Knesset, and the other for prime minister.

    Elections to the Knesset remain virtually unchanged. Parties represented in the outgoing Knesset can automatically stand for re-election; other parties may present their candidacy by obtaining the signatures of 2,500 eligible voters, officially registering as a party, and depositing a bond, which is refunded if they win at least one Knesset seat. Each party presents its platform and list of candidates for the Knesset, in order of precedence. The different parties select their candidate list by various methods, whether primaries (among registered party members) or selection by a party committee or other body.

     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update
    Elections in Israel 1999 – Background
    The Electoral System in Israel (Knesset website)

    Voter Eligibility

    All citizens aged 18 or older on election day are eligible to vote, and a voter registry is prepared and published before the election.

    Election day is a holiday in order to enable all to participate.

    Soldiers and policemen on active duty vote in special polling stations in their units. Special arrangements have also been made for prison inmates to vote, as well as for those confined to hospital.

    Israeli law does not provide for absentee ballots, and voting takes place only on Israeli soil. The sole exceptions are official Israeli envoys serving in missions abroad, and members of the Israeli merchant marine.

    On January 31, 1999, the Ministry of the Interior placed the register of voters on public display, and announcements were published in the Israeli press, informing the public that toll-free phone lines were open to those who wish to confirm, correct or add to the information appearing therein.

    The register is open for public inspection by telephone until February 12, and corrections can be requested until February 14. If the request is not granted, an appeal may be filed before the District Court until March 7. Court fees are waived for such an appeal.

    The register contains the names of all eligible voters (citizens who were born no later than June 4, 1981), their address, assigned polling station and its location. The register contains the names of 4,496,515 voters, of whom approximately 673,000 appear for the first time – 493,000 voters who have turned 18 since the last election, and 180,000 new immigrants.

    Eligibility Requirements for Knesset Candidates

    Every Israel national who on the day of the admission of a candidates list containing his name is 21 of age or over shall have the right to be elected to the Knesset.

    However, any individual who has been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of five years or more for an offense against the security of the state and five years have not yet passed since the day when he terminated his period of imprisonment, may not become a candidate for the Knesset.

    Where an Israeli citizen is also a citizen of another state, and the law of that state enables his release from its nationality, he cannot be a candidate for the Knesset unless, by the time of the submission of the candidates’ list including his name and to the satisfaction of the chairman of the Knesset Central Elections Committee, he has done everything required on his part to be released or that additional citizenship.

    In addition, the law specifies that following senior officials cannot not be candidates for the Knesset:

    (1) the President of the State;
    (2) the two Chief Rabbis;
    (3) a judge (Heb: shofet), so long as he holds office;
    (4) a judge (Heb: dayan) of a religious court, so long as he holds office;
    (5) the State Comptroller;
    (6) the Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces;
    (7) rabbis and ministers of other religions while holding office for a remuneration.
    (8) senior civil service employees and senior army officers (four highest grades)

    According to the Basic Law: The Knesset, the Central Elections Committee may prevent a candidates’ list from participating in elections if its objectives or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

  • negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people;
  • negation of the democratic character of the State;
  • incitement to racism.

    Eligibility Requirements for Prime Minister

    Since the change of the electoral system in 1996, Israel’s prime minister is elected by a separate, direct ballot. The ballot is of a different color, and lists only the candidate’s name.

    The candidate for prime minister may be nominated by:

  • a party, or parties, with at least 10 seats in the outgoing Knesset
  • 50,000 enfranchised persons

    The candidate must be a citizen at least 30 years of age, and head his/her party’s list of candidates for the Knesset.

    If the outgoing prime minister has served for seven consecutive years, he/she may not stand for re-election.

     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update
    Elections in Israel 1999 – Background
    The Electoral System in Israel (Knesset website)

    The Prime Ministerial Race: Meet the Candidates

    A number of candidates declared their intention to run for the office of Prime Minister. Below are the official biographies of some of the more prominent contenders. (Note: Bios provided by the offices of the candidates.)

     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update

     Benjamin Netanyahu, incumbent Prime Minister (Likud)

     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update

     Ehud Barak, MK (One Israel)

     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update

     Ze’ev Benjamin Begin, MK (National Unity) – WITHDRAWN FROM THE RACE

     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update


     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update

     Yitzhak Mordechai, MK (Center) – WITHDRAWN FROM THE RACE

    Registration of Parties

    In order for a party to present candidates for election to the Knesset it must be registered as a political party with the Party Registrar, a statutory official who carries out his duties in accordance with the relevant legislation.

    Any group of at least one hundred individuals, who wish to register themselves as a political party, must present the registrar with the following:

  • an official registration request, as required by law,
  • the party’s rules of association, as prescribed by law,
  • affidavits providing the requisite details for each of the one hundred registrants (name, address, declaration of intent to register, etc.),
  • documentation from the Ministry of Interior demonstrating the Israeli citizenship of the registrants,
  • and registration fees and related expenses totalling about 50,000 NIS (approximately $12,500).

    New parties wishing to participate in the upcoming Israeli elections were required to submit their registrations by February 10, 1999 in order to guarantee completion of the registration process by March 30.

    In the 90 days preceding the elections, any two Knesset members from the same party can leave it and set up an independent list. The new list is then eligible for NIS 800,000 in government election funds and nine minutes of TV advertising time per MK. The splits and forming of new factions can continue until March 29, when the final list of parties running in the elections is submitted to the Central Election Committee.

  • Parties registered and pending registration
    (February 10, 1999).

    On April 23, 1999, the Central Elections Committee published the list of 33 parties which will run in the May elections:
    (ordered by their alphabetical order in Hebrew)

    National Unity (HaIchud HaLeumi)
    National Democratic Alliance (Al-Tajammu’ Al-Watani Al-Democrati)
    Democratic Action Organization (Daam)
    The Third Way
    Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash)
    United Torah Judaism
    Israel Green Party (HaYerukim)
    One Israel
    Yisrael Ba’aliyah
    Power for Pensioners (Koah LaGimlaim)
    Lev – Immigrants for Israel
    Tradition of the Fathers (Moreshet Avot)
    Jewish Leadership for Israel (withdrawn from the race)
    National Religious Party
    The Center Party
    The Progressive Center Party (for Romanian immigrants)
    Men’s Family Rights
    The Natural Law Party
    The Negev Party
    The Casino Party
    Meretz – Democratic Israel
    The Green Leaf Party
    One Nation – for Israeli Workers and Pensioners
    The New Arab Party
    Pnina Rosenblum
    Tzomet – The Movement for Renewed Zionism
    Voice of the Environment (withdrawn from the race)
    United Arab List
    Hope (Tikva)

     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update
    Party Contact Information
    Elections 1999: Candidates and Parties on Internet

    List of Candidates for the 15th Knesset
    (Names of candidates as published by the Government Press Office)

    1. Benjamin Netanyahu 2. Silvan Shalom 3. Moshe Katzav 4. Limor Livnat 5. Meir Sheetrit 6. Gideon Ezra 7. Naomi Blumental 8. Ariel Sharon 9. Uzi Landau 10. Reuven Rivlin 11. Danny Naveh 12. Tzahi Hanegbi 13. Yisrael Katz 14. Michael Eitan 15. Joshua Matza 16. Moshe Arens 17. Avraham Hirschson 18. Tzipi Livni 19. Ayoub Kara 20. Yuval Steinitz 21. Ze’ev Boim 22. Shaul Amor 23. Eli Cohen 24. Ze’ev Geyzel 25. Gila Gamliel 26. Gilad Arden 27. David Mena 28. Avi Ben-Avraham 29. Liat Rabner 30. Yosef Ahimeir 31. Michael Ratzon 32. Doron Shmueli 33. Assad Assad 34. Zahava Koren 35. Yehiel Hazan

    ONE ISRAEL – Labor, Gesher, Meimad
    1. Ehud Barak 2. Shimon Peres 3. David Levy 4. Shlomo Ben-Ami 5. Yosef Beilin 6. Matan Vilnai 7. Avraham Burg 8. Ra’anan Cohen 9. Uzi Baram 10. Dalia Itzik 11. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer 12. Haim Ramon 13. Elie Goldschmidt 14. Avraham Shohat 15. Yael Dayan 16. Ofir Pines-Paz 17. Michael Melchior 18. Maxim Levy 19. Ephraim Sneh 20. Nawaf Massalha 21. Avraham Yehezkel 22. Sofa Landver 23. Salah Tarif 24. Shalom Simchon 25. Yossi Katz 26. Shiri Weizman 27. Eli Ben-Menachem 28. Collette Avital 29. Mordechai Mishani 30. Ephraim Oshaya 31. Micha Goldman 32. Eitan Cabel 33. Yehuda Gilad 34. Orit Noked 35. Tzali Reshef

    1. Ezra Tissona 2. Nissim Farjoun 3. Ron Feldman

    1. Yitzhak Mordechai 2. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak 3. Dan Meridor 4. Roni Milo 5. Uriel Savir 6. Dalia Pelossof 7. Nehama Ronen 8. David Magen 9. Yehiel Lasry 10. Haggai Merom 11. Svetlana Alexandrova 12. Benny Biton 13. Manuela Dviri 14. Eran Weintraub 15. Shmuel Slavin

    1. Samia Khatib 2. Wahaba Badarna 3. Asma Agbaria 4. Assaf Adiv 5. Abd al-Majid Hussein 6. Michal Ben-Efrat

    1. Mohammed Baraka 2. Issam Mahoul 3. Tamar Gozansky 4. Afou Agbaria 5. Walid Fahoum 6. Yosef Assouna

    1. Boaz Wachtal 2. Shlomo Lavi 3. Gabriel Levy

    1. Alexander Sentzer 2. Richislav Primsler 3. Simeon Shapiro

    1. Natan Sharansky 2. Yuli Edelstein 3. Roman Bronfman 4. Marina Solodkin 5. Gennady Rieger 6. Alexander Tzinker 7. Natalia Yellinson 8. Shlomo Mula 9. Yonatan Mishayev 10. Vuba Bitau

    ISRAEL BEITENU (Israel Our Home)
    1. Avigdor Lieberman 2. Yuri Stern 3. Michael Nudleman 4. Eliezer Cohen 5. Esterina Tartman 6. Uri Ahonov

    1. David Zucker 2. Pe’er Wisner 3. Irit Rosenblum

    JEWISH LEADERSHIP FOR ISRAEL – Withdrawn from the race
    1. Mordechai Karpel 2. Moshe Feiglin

    1. Ovadia Pesachov 2. Yehoshua Leib 3. Goram Harazi

    1. Ya’akov Schlusser 2. Herzl Rotem 3. Dan Sarenga

    1. Yosef Sarid 2. Ran Cohen 3. Haim Oron 4. Amnon Rubinstein 5. Anat Maor 6. Zahava Gal-On 7. Avshalom Vilan 8. Ilan Gillon 9. Naomi Hazan 10. Hussiena Jabara 11. Moshe Raz 12. Benjamin Temkin 13. Uzi Even 14. Michal Shohat 15. Ali al-Assad

    1. Azmi Bishara 2. Ahmed Tibi 3. Jamal Zahalka 4. Said Nafa’a 5. Ahmed Nasser 6. Muhammad Shalabi

    1. Yitzhak Levy 2. Haim Druckman 3. Shaul Yahalom 4. Yigal Bibi 5. Zevulun Orlev 6. Nahum Lagenthal 7. Nissan Slomiansky 8. Gila Finkelstein 9. Eliyahu Gabai 10. Shmaryahu Ben-Tzur 11. Asher Abergil 12. Yehudit Shilat 13. Rachel Sylvetzky 14. Mordechai Vaknin 15. Viva Sivan

    NATIONAL UNITY – Moledet, Tekuma, Herut
    1. Ze’ev Binyamin Begin 2. Rehavam Ze’evi 3. Hanan Porat 4. Michael Kleiner 5. Binyamin Alon 6. Zvi Hendel 7. Uri Ariel 8. Moshe Peled 9. Moshe Peretz 10. Reuven Felix

    1. Reuven Zilinkovsky 2. Dorit Goldschmidt 3. Daniel Glicker

    1. Rina Ramot 2. Moshe Zaguri 3. Khalil Abu-Rabiya

    1. Makram Mahoul 2. Samar Mavjish 3. Asma Abu-Wassal

    1. Amir Peretz 2. Haim Katz 3. Yoram Oberkovich 4. Addisu Messele 5. Shlomo Kfir 6. Nadia Hilo

    1. Pnina Rosenblum 2. Avraham Balashnikov 3. Masha Lubelsky 4. Galia Albin 5. Moshe Moskowitz 6. Edna Shani

    1. Gideon Ben-Yisrael 2. Yaffa Golan 3. Avishai Lickerman

    1. Adrian Yonovich 2. Yehuda Maor 3. Ivan Daniel

    1. Aryeh Deri 2. Aryeh Gamliel 3. Eliyahu Suissa 4. Eliyahu Yishai 5. Shlomo Benizri 6. Yitzhak Cohen 7. Amnon Cohen 8. Nissim Dahan 9. David Azoulai 10. David Tal 11. Yitzhak Vaknin 12. Rahamim Mellul 13. Meshulam Nahari 14. Yitzhak Saban 15. Nissim Ze’ev

    1. Yosef Lapid 2. Avraham Poraz 3. Yehudit Naot 4. Yosef Paritzky 5. Eliezer Zandberg 6. Victor Breilovsky

    1. Avigdor Kahalani 2. Eliyahu Malka 3. Yehuda Harel 4. Ehud Gross 5. Miriam David 6. Moshe Danon

    1. Yosef Ba-Gad 2. Moshe Kablan 3. Asher Eidan

    1. Rafael Eitan 2. Haim Adini 3. Haim Dayan 4. Moshe Romem 5. Vered Sweid 6. Ya’akov Rosenwald

    1. Abd al-Malik Dahamshe 2. Taleb a-Sana’a 3. Hashem Mahmeed 4. Tewfik Khatib 5. Muhammad Kena’an 6. Ibrahim al-Amor

    1. Meir Porush 2. Avraham Ravitz 3. Ya’akov Litzman 4. Moshe Gafni 5. Shmuel Halpert 6. Yisrael Eichler 7. Yehye Turgeman 8. Hanoch Werdiger 9. Aryeh Baumel 10. Avraham Nattar

    VOICE OF THE ENVIRONMENT – Withdrawn from the race
    1. Roni Kramer 2. David Klein 3. David Sugarman

    Campaigning Regulations

    On February 17, 1999 (90 days before the election), the election laws regarding campaigning took effect. These regulations prohibit campaign advertising from appearing on buses and lighted billboards. In addition, the size of advertisements in the printed media is limited, and the use of entertainment events or gifts to promote candidates is also prohibited.

    Election Finance: Background Information

    Allocations to Parties

    According to the Party Financing Law, a treasury allocation for election campaigns is granted to each faction at the rate of one pre-defined "financing unit" per seat won in the previous Knesset elections plus one unit per mandate won in the current Knesset elections, divided by two, plus one additional financing unit. New factions receive a similar allocation, retroactively, based on the number of seats won in the elections. A faction which receives more than 1% of the valid votes cast in the Knesset election but not enough to win a Knesset seat is entitled to one "financing unit" to cover its election expenses. (The amount of one (1) Financing Unit for the 1992 Knesset elections was 664,000 NIS.)

    Every Faction is entitled to financing of:

    1. Expenses incurred during the election campaign, and;

    2. Ongoing expenses, on a month to month basis, beginning with the month after the publication of the results of the Knesset elections until the month of the publication of the next Knesset elections.

    However, a faction comprising five (5) Members of the Knesset or less may not expend more than ten (10) Financing Units for election expenses. A Faction comprising more than (5) five Members of the Knesset but less than ten (10) Members of the Knesset may not expend more than twice the number of Financing Units per Member of Knesset in the Faction. In addition, a faction comprising ten (10) or more Members of the Knesset may not expend more than twice the the number of Financing Units per the first ten Members of the Knesset in the Faction and one and one half (1 1/2) the number of Financing Units per each additional Knesset Member.

    Public Campaign Contributions

    No faction may receive a contribution, directly or indirectly, from an individual (i.e. noncommercial entity), in excess of the sum of five hundred (500) NIS from any person or his dependents. In an election year, this sum shall be one thousand (1,000) NIS. (These sums are linked to the Consumer Price Index.)

    A faction or may not receive a loan, except from a banking institution. Also, a faction may not receive any funding whatsoever from a commercial entity, corporation or business partnership.

    Finally, a faction may not receive a financial contribution from someone who is not eligible to vote in the elections.


    The State Comptroller has the right to determine guidelines, for the accountants of the factions, regarding the manner in which faction accounts must be audited.

    Every faction must submit to the Speaker of the Knesset its yearly balance sheet and its yearly report of income and expenditures. These documents made open to public examination by the Knesset Speaker.

     Elections in Israel May 1999-Special Update
    Party Financing Law


    The following are the dates of selected political and electoral milestones for the 1999 Israeli elections:

  • January 24: The Meretz Party Council chooses its panel of 27 Knesset candidates.
  • January 25: The Likud party conducted primary elections for party leadership between incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former Defense Minister and Foreign Minister Dr. Moshe Arens (Uzi Landau has withdrawn his candidacy) by 170,000 registered Likud members.
  • February 7: 100 days prior to elections, senior civil servants wishing to become candidates must resign their positions.
  • February 8: The Likud’s list for the Knesset was chosen by the 2,700 members of the Likud Central Committee.
  • February 15: The Labour Party conducted primary elections for its Knesset list, among the 163,000 registered party members (the Labour candidate for Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, has already been determined).
  • February 17: Restrictions on election campaigning went into effect.
  • March 30: Last day for submission of candidacy for prime minister and Knesset (48 days prior to elections).
  • April 22: Central Elections Committee approves candidates (25 days prior to elections).
  • May 5: Israeli envoys and seamen abroad cast their ballots (12 days prior to elections).
  • May 17: Election day.
  • May 25: Publication of official results.
  • June 7: The 15th Knesset convenes.
  • Within 45 days of the publication of the election results, the prime minister-elect will present his/her list of ministers and basic policy guidelines before the Knesset.