Election Chronicles > Elections > 1977 Elections

1977 Elections

 

Elections for the ninth Knesset were held on 17 May 1977. The period leading up to the elections was characterized by American pressure on Israel to come to the negotiating table. At the same time, the Gush Emunim movement was actively encouraging settlement in the West Bank. Another concern was the growing alienation of Israel Arab citizens, as reflected in the 1976 Land Day protest.

The economic situation was a major election issue, in light of rising inflation that had triggered a serious recession. At the same time, many senior officials, most of them affiliated with the establishment, were under accusations of corruption and the public was growing increasingly disgruntled.

It was clear that Rabin's government was about to fall and he therefore chose to call early elections. Ministers from the Mafdal (National Religious Party) abstained from the vote of no-confidence on the grounds of desecration of the Sabbath. Rabin saw their abstention as resignation and called a cabinet meeting that very night, at which where he announced the resignation of the government. Several months prior to the elections it has been revealed that Rabin's wife Leah had a dollar account at a U.S. bank, something that was in contravention of Israeli monetary law at the time. As a result, Peres headed up the Labor Party (Ma'arach) list running for election.
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1977 Elections
 

 

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​1949 •​ 1951​ •​ ​1955 •​ 1959 •​ 1961 •​​ 1965 •​​ 1969 •​​ 1973 •​​ 1977 •​​ 1981

 

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The Ethnic Divide
The results of the elections for the ninth Knesset, which were held on May 17, 1977, are widely referred to as "the revolution" (mahapach). For the first time ever, the Likud party, led by Menahem Begin, was victorious. The Revisionist movement and its allies had finally risen to power after 29 years of various forms of Mapai government, themselves preceded by years of Poalim party control over national institutions and the Zionist movement.

There were many issues of concern that factored in to these elections, among them the 1973 fiasco, several accusations of corruption against officials affiliated with the Ma'arach and a period of economic hardship. Of no less significant impact however, was the ethnic question.

For many years, Menahem Begin had attracted voters from eastern (Mizrahi) communities who felt overlooked by the Mapai establishment. Begin was adept at utilizing these sentiments and also at addressing the need to bridge the gaps between eastern Jews and Ashkenazi Jews in the State of Israel. Years of fomenting dissatisfaction with the condescending attitude of the Ashkenazi establishment were manifest in widespread admiration and massive electoral support for Begin and the Likud on the part of the eastern Jews.  The election results of 1977 were a culmination of attitudes to immigrants from Arab countries in the early years of the state, the attempt to impose a "melting pot" policy, and the repression of deeply rooted family and cultural traditions in the hope of creating a "new" person in accordance with the socialist philosophy that prevailed under Ben Gurion and his successors. All the above contributed to widespread rejection of the left wing parties in favor of Begin and his party. A major contributing factor was that Begin promoted young leaders from eastern communities who had grown up in peripheral areas and done well on the municipal level, giving them leadership positions in his government. For the first time since the establishment of the state, many eastern (Mizrahi) Jews felt they had something beyond symbolic representation in the ruling party – a genuine say in the running of the state.
The Ethnic Divide
 

 

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All Elections
​1949 •​ 1951​ •​ ​1955 •​ 1959 •​ 1961 •​​ 1965 •​​ 1969 •​​ 1973 •​​ 1977 •​​ 1981

 

1984​ •​​ 1988​​​ •​​ 1992​ •​​ 1996​​ •​​ 1999​​ •​​ 2001​​ •​​​​ 2003​​ •​​​ 2006 •​​​​ 2009​​

  

 

 

Rabin's Dollar Account
Elections for the ninth Knesset were called for May 17, 1977, after a coalition crisis caused Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to resign in December 1976. Rabin served as prime minister in the transition government. On March 15, 1977, journalist Dan Margalit published an article in Haaretz, which revealed that Rabin's wife, Leah, maintained a dollar account in a U.S. bank. Foreign currency accounts were against the law at the time. The account in question had been opened when Rabin served as ambassador in Washington, and should have been closed upon his return. The Attorney General Aharon Barak, announced his intention to prosecute the Rabins.

Yitzhak Rabin found himself in a difficult position. Aharon Barak's clear position made it impossible to resolve the issue quietly by paying a fine and the impending prosecution damaged his ability to lead the Labor Party (Ma'arach) in the rapidly approaching elections. On the other hand, as prime minister of a transitional government, he was not permitted to resign.  He announced a leave of absence and stepped down as party leader. Shimon Peres, his arch rival at the time, replaced him as party leader. A short time prior to this, Rabin had bested Peres by a narrow margin in internal elections.

With Rabin's relinquishing the party leadership, the attorney general decided not to prosecute him. Leah Rabin was fined and the "Rabin dollar account" became a point of note in the struggle to establish the rule of law and set ethical standards for public officials in the State of Israel.
Rabin's Dollar Account​

 

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All Elections
​1949 •​ 1951​ •​ ​1955 •​ 1959 •​ 1961 •​​ 1965 •​​ 1969 •​​ 1973 •​​ 1977 •​​ 1981

 

1984​ •​​ 1988​​​ •​​ 1992​ •​​ 1996​​ •​​ 1999​​ •​​ 2001​​ •​​​​ 2003​​ •​​​ 2006 •​​​​ 2009​​

  

 

 

Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin (1913-1992) was born in Poland and joined the Beitar youth movement as a young man. In 1938 he was appointed commissioner of Beitar in Poland. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, he fled to an area that had been occupied by the USSR. In 1940, his Zionist activities were forbidden and he was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released in 1941, after agreeing to join Anders' Army, a unit made up of Polish prisoners who agreed to fight on behalf of the USSR. It was as a soldier in Anders' Army that Begin reached Palestine in 1943. He deserted, going underground, and soon became the commander of the Etzel underground resistance movement. In this capacity Begin engaged in both political and military activity. Wanted by the British, he was forced to live in hiding. After the United Nations partition decision in 1947, he agreed to join forces with the national organizations and include Etzel activists in the ranks of the IDF. In 1948 he was involved in the establishment of the Herut party, which he led in all its election campaigns. Begin's public career was characterized by sharp ups and downs. In 1952, after his influence ebbed following poor results in the 1951 elections, Begin led a fierce struggle against German reparation payments and spoke at many heated demonstrations.  

Menachem Begin became known as a gifted orator, incisive polemicist and charismatic leader. He managed to lead Herut throughout the 1960s, despite challengers that arose from among the younger generation. Begin succeeded in expanding support for the party and its nationalist, economic, and social platform by forging a series of alliances with liberal and right wing parties. In 1967, in the days preceding the Six-Day War, Begin joined the government as a minister without portfolio, a position he held even after the 1969 elections. In 1970 however, he resigned in protest over the ceasefire agreement that had ended the War of Attrition. Begin's political power was consolidated by the 1973 "fiasco" and the weakened national leadership of the latter 1970s. Begin's Likud party won the 1977 elections and Begin formed the government. This event became known as "the revolution" (Ha'mahapach). For the first time since the establishment of the state, a government had been formed by someone other than the Labor party in its various iterations.

During Begin's term of office as prime minister, Egyptian president Anwar Saadat visited Israel and a peace agreement between the two countries was reached. According to this agreement, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and evacuated all Israel citizens from the region. In 1981, the Likud was once again victorious in the elections. In 1982, Begin's government launched a military campaign in Lebanon, which evolved into a protracted and complicated war. In 1983, an ailing and exhausted Begin announced his retirement. Menachem Begin passed away on March 9, 1992.
Menachem Begin​
 

 

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All Elections
​1949 •​ 1951​ •​ ​1955 •​ 1959 •​ 1961 •​​ 1965 •​​ 1969 •​​ 1973 •​​ 1977 •​​ 1981

 

1984​ •​​ 1988​​​ •​​ 1992​ •​​ 1996​​ •​​ 1999​​ •​​ 2001​​ •​​​​ 2003​​ •​​​ 2006 •​​​​ 2009​​

  

 

 

Plato-Sharon
Sami Plato, a Polish-born French Jew who changed his name to Shmuel Plato Sharon when he immigrated to Israel in 1975, was one of the most flamboyant characters ever elected to the Knesset. A short time after he came to Israel, an international warrant for his arrest was issued as he was under suspicion of serious financial crimes in France. Plato Sharon decided to establish a party and run for the Knesset, probably in the belief that being a member of the Knesset would preclude extradition. He called his party Pituah VeShalom (Development and Peace) (the acronym PASH was the same as his initials). The sole candidate on the party's list (which was permissible at the time), Plato Sharon undertook an energetic election campaign, focusing on his intention on promote a mass building initiative to provide cheap rental housing to those without means. The second issue at the heart of the campaign of the "lone man for Knesset", as he called himself, was the need to save Plato Sharon the individual, who portrayed himself as a Jew being persecuted by the French legal system.

Plato Sharon received 30,549 votes in the elections. This was a victory, given that the Shlomtzion party founded by Ariel Sharon in 1976 received fewer votes. Plato-Sharon had won 2% of the votes and this would have given him two seats in the Knesset, had he not been a one-man party. As it was, half the votes he received were rendered null. Nevertheless, Plato-Sharon became a member of Knesset and served throughout the ninth Knesset, until 1981.
Plato-Sharon 
Plato-Sharon

 

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All Elections
​1949 •​ 1951​ •​ ​1955 •​ 1959 •​ 1961 •​​ 1965 •​​ 1969 •​​ 1973 •​​ 1977 •​​ 1981

 

1984​ •​​ 1988​​​ •​​ 1992​ •​​ 1996​​ •​​ 1999​​ •​​ 2001​​ •​​​​ 2003​​ •​​​ 2006 •​​​​ 2009​​