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The 1981 elections revolved, to a great extent, around inequities between various communities within Israeli society. The Likud's rise to power, under Menachem Begin's leadership, brought to the fore a great deal of anger and resentment that eastern Jews (Mizrahim) felt towards Ashkenazi Jews, the Mapai establishment and the old elites. The Likud spoke to Mizrahi Jews, both in terms of the messages it conveyed to its supporters and in terms of promoting young Mizrahi leadership, mainly from among local government in the development towns. Begin himself was adept at addressing their feelings of disempowerment and eliciting their ethnic pride.
The elections for the tenth Knesset were fraught with hostility and even violence related to the ethnic issue. Likud supporters focused their ire on Shimon Peres as the representative of the historical Mapai, even circulating malicious rumors about him. Peres encountered violence at election rallies. Begin was fortified by the riled up atmosphere and managed to exploit a condescending and racist comment made by entertainer Dudu Topaz – which would become known as the "tzachtzach speech" – in order to mobilize his supporters and encourage Mizrahi Jews to vote against years of neglect and humiliation..