Israel. Ehud Barak, leader of the newly formed
left-center alliance, One Israel, received 56.1% of the vote
in the May 17 election. He thus defeated incumbent Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the conservative
Likud. In the parliamentary elections (Knesset), held at the
same time, things did not go so well for An Israel. The
alliance took home 26 of Knesset's 120 seats, a decrease of
eight compared to the 1996 election. However, for Likud,
things went even worse - the party lost 15 seats and stayed
on 19 seats. The ultra-Orthodox Shas went ahead with seven
mandates to 17, despite the fact that its then leader Arye
Deri had been sentenced in March to four years in prison.
bribery and fraud.
In early July, Barak succeeded in uniting conflicting
wills in a government supported by 75 seats in the Knesset.
Shas and several other religious parties were included in
the coalition, but its dominant members were considered to
be leading the peace process in port. Among the members of
the government were David Levy, Foreign Minister and Deputy
Prime Minister, Yitzhak Mordechai, Minister of Transport and
Deputy Prime Minister, and Shimon Peres, Minister of
Countryaah official website, Netanyahu resigned from the Knesset after the election,
and a week later he also left his post as leader of Likud.
New Likud leader became veteran politician and General Ariel
Sharon, Foreign Minister in the latest Likud government.
The election brought some progress for the Palestinian
minority. Nawaf Massalha from An Israel became the
Palestinian who reached the highest post so far in Israel when
he was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister.
During the election campaign, Barak promised an Israeli
withdrawal from southern Lebanon within a year of taking
office as head of government. Otherwise, the debate before
and after the elections was characterized less by security
policy and more by the relationship to Orthodox Jewish
doctrine. In February, more than 200,000 Orthodox Jews
outside the Supreme Court of I demonstrated in protest
against what they believed was religious persecution within
the legal system. In August, contradictions arose when a
250-tonne turbine was to be shipped from Tel Aviv to
Ashkelon. In order for other traffic to be disturbed as
little as possible, transport had been planned for a Sabbath
evening. But under Orthodox law, no work is allowed on the
Sabbath, and the plan caused the Orthodox government parties
to threaten to leave the coalition.
Opposition between Christians and Muslims occurred around
a square in the city of Nazareth on the West Bank. The
city's Christians wanted to reserve the square for pilgrims
waiting for the turn of the millennium, while an Islamist
organization wanted to build a mosque there. The government
of I brokered an agreement that meant that the pilgrims got
a smaller place than planned, while the Islamists were
allowed to start building the mosque only after the New
The Supreme Court ruled in September that the security
service Shin Bet must not use physical force during
questioning. "Mild physical pressures" were previously
allowed against persons suspected of terrorist acts.
400,000 public servants strike in March for wage
increases of 8.1%. The strike was canceled when the parties
agreed on wage increases of 4.8%.
Israel was severely affected during the year by the
drought that characterized the Middle East. In November, it
rained in the country for the first time in nine months.