Yitzhak Shamir (Right) & Shimon Peres

Israeli citizens will be voting all throughout November 1st, at a particularly tense time in Judea and Samaria and as many leaders hope to receive the mandate from President Herzog. A very similar situation happened just 34 years ago. The last and only time elections were held in Israel on November 1 was in 1988, after four years of the first rotation government.

Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres were then both serving as prime ministers as part of the rotation government and as always in the elections for the 12th Knesset, the fight between the two major parties was close. Voting in 1988 was just a year after the outbreak of the first intifada and tensions were extremely high, just like they are today. On November 1, 1988, the Likud party led by Shamir won 40 seats, the left-leaning party led by Peres received 39 and the ultra-Orthodox were the ones that gained strength and moved from 6 seats to 13.

However, the situation in 1988 and the formation of the government was a bit different than today. The right-wing ultra-Orthodox bloc won 65 seats, but the ultra-orthodox parties did not reject Peres and tried to get what they could out of him in exchange for supporting him for the prime ministership. In the end, they recommended Shamir to then-President Haim Herzog, the father of current President Yitzhak Herzog, but the Likud chairman refused to comply with some of the ultra-Orthodox demands and headed in the direction of a unity government with Peres.

The 22nd Israeli government was a unity government with the support of 95 Knesset members and without rotation. There were only two members of the government at the time who are still in the political system,  Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, who received the interior ministry and became, at the age of 29, the youngest minister ever in Israel's government; and Netanyahu, who in the four years leading to 1988 served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, was appointed deputy foreign minister.

Peres, who served as Prime Minister between 1984 and 1986, served in the 1988 government as Minister of Finance, while Yitzhak Rabin was Minister of Defense. However, the government did not last long, and about a year and a half later it fell following what is called in Israeli politics the “dirty trick”, an attempt by Peres to form a narrow leftist-Orthodox government, an attempt that failed.

What seems to have not changed since 1988 is the nonstop terrorism. On October 30, 1988, just two days before the elections, a terrorist attack took place on a bus. Three terrorists threw Molotov cocktails on a bus from Tiberias to Jerusalem. The bus burned and all the passengers escaped except for the Weiss family who was burned alive, and Israel Defense Forces soldier David Delarosa who died a month and a half after the attack. 

Dr. Yossi Beilin, who served as a member of the Knesset on behalf of the Labor Party in the 12th Knesset that was established after the elections on November 1 1988 offered insight into the political climate of the time.  "Then there were no boycotts of parties because it was after the national unity government passed the law that prevented extremist Kahane from running in the elections, and he would have been surely boycotted by both parties. The Arab parties were not on the agenda because once Labor and Likud went to national unity, there was no need and it wasn't a dilemma."

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