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For a list of 18th Knesset members, see List of members of the eighteenth Knesset.
Elections for the 18th Knessetmarker were held in Israelmarker on 10 February 2009. These elections became necessary due to the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as leader of the Kadima party, and the failure of his successor, Tzipi Livni, to form a coalition government. Had Olmert remained in office or had Livni formed a coalition government, the elections would have been scheduled for 2010 instead.


On 17 September 2008, Kadima held a leadership election, which was won by Tzipi Livni. Following Livni's victory, former party leader Ehud Olmert (who did not run in the contest) resigned as Prime Minister. Livni was given six weeks to form a coalition, but set a deadline of 26 October for parties to agree to join the new government.

Although the Labor Party agreed to join, current coalition members Shas rejected the opportunity, with Livni claiming that they had made "economically and diplomatically illegitimate" demands (which included increasing child benefits and rejecting the possible division of Jerusalemmarker in a deal with the Palestinians). It was reported that Shas had rejected almost one billion shekels in child allowances offered to them as part of the coalition negotiations. Gil and United Torah Judaism had both rejected offers to join, whilst negotiations with Meretz-Yachad were still ongoing. On 26 October, Livni recommended to President Shimon Peres that early elections be held.

President Peres had three days to consult on the recommendation, after which there was a period of three weeks in which other Knesset members could have offered to form an alternative coalition, but no such alternative was brought

The election would have to be held within 90 days after the end of that period. Although Kadima submitted a bill to the Knesset on 27 October to call early elections and bypass the three week period, Peres's announcement to the Knesset that there was no chance of forming a government meant that the full waiting period stood. Ehud Olmert was to remain the caretaker Prime Minister until a new government was formed after the elections.

The traditional distinction between the Israeli left and the right had become blurred, with both the voters and the main candidates gravitating toward the center. Israelis, who had always been highly politicized, were switching affiliations more easily. On the Palestinian front, stark differences among the parties still remained. Kadima were committed to continuing talks for a two-state solution. Labor did not believe that bilateral Israeli–Palestinian negotiations could succeed under the current circumstances and advocated a more comprehensive, regional approach to peace. Likud said it would promote an "economic peace" with the Palestinians and also hold political negotiations, although it was not clear about what.


Elections to the Knesset allocate 120 seats by party-list proportional representation, using the D'Hondt method. The election threshold for the 2006 election was set at 2% (up from 1.5% in previous elections), which is a little over two seats.

After official results are published, the President delegates the task of forming a government to the member of Knesset with the best chance of assembling a majority coalition (usually the leader of the largest party). That member has up to 42 days to negotiate with the different parties, and then present his or her government to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. Once the government is approved (by a vote of at least 61 members), he or she becomes Prime Minister.


A divider in which the Israeli voter cast his ballot paper
ballot papers
By 23 December, a record 43 parties had registered with the parties registrar, compared to 31 for the 2006 elections, although in the end, only 34 parties submitted a list of candidates and only 33 ran on election day. On 12 January 2009, Balad and the United Arab ListTa'al alliance were disqualified by the Central Elections Committee on the grounds that they failed to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and called for armed conflict against it. Balad and Ta'al were also disqualified from the 2003 election, but won a Supreme Courtmarker case which allowed them to run. On 21 January 2009, the Supreme Court again revoked the ban.


The LaborMeimad alliance, in existence since 1999, was ended prior to the elections. Labor ran on its own, whilst Meimad ran a joint list with the new Green Movement.

Meretz and Tnu'a HaHadasha, a new movement of left-wing activists led by Tzali Reshef, ran a joint list, with Tnua'a HaHadasha representatives getting third, seventh and eleventh spots on the alliance's list.

The anti-West Bank barrier movement Tarabut has merged into Hadash.

The religious Zionist Ahi party, previously part of the National Union alliance, merged into Likud in late December 2008. Ultra-orthodox parties Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah agreed to continue their alliance, United Torah Judaism, for the election.

New parties

Several political parties have been established since the 2006 elections. The first was Social Justice, founded by billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak in February 2007 (which in the end did not run in the election), whilst Yisrael Hazaka was established by the former Labor member of the Knesset, Efraim Sneh in May 2008.

After the announcement of elections in late October 2008, the Tkuma and Moledet factions of the National Union and the National Religious Party merged into a single party in early November 2008, which was later named The Jewish Home. However, the National Union was re-established after the Moledet and Tkuma factions broke away from the party and agreed an alliance with Hatikva headed by Aryeh Eldad and Eretz Yisrael Shelanu (Our Land of Israel) headed by Rabbi Sholom Dov Wolpo and Baruch Marzel.

Member of the Knesset Abbas Zakour left the United Arab List to establish the Arab Centre Party in early December 2008. However, he later joined the Balad list.


The Knesset Board of Elections has released the following official results.

Pre-election opinion polling

Source Party
Kadima Labor Party Shas Likud Yisrael Beiteinu Jewish Home National Union Gil United Torah Judaism Meretz United Arab List–Ta'al Hadash Balad The Greens
17th Knesset 29 19 12 12 11 9 7 6 5 4 3 3 0
27 Oct
29 11 11 26 9 7 2 7 6 10 2
27 Oct
31 11 8 29 11 7 0 4 5 11 3
Gal Hadash
30 Oct
30 13 10 31 8 6 0 5 5 10 2
Gal Hadash
13 Nov
28 11 10 33 7 6 0 5 7 10 3
20 Nov
28 10 10 34 10 4 0 6 7 11 0
20 Nov
26 8 11 32 9 6 0 7 7 11 3
Shvakim Panorama
15 Dec
20 14 12 34 11 4 0 7 6 9 0
19 Dec
30 12 9 30 12 5 0 5 7 10 0
25 Dec
26 11 13 30 11 6 2 5 8 3 3 2
31 Dec
27 16 9 32 11 3 5 7 4 4 2
Reshet Bet
15 Jan
21 15 10 28 15 3 3 0 7 5 4 3 3 3
22 Jan
24 15 10 30 15 2 4 5 6 4 3 2
29 Jan
25 14 10 28 15 3 4 2 5 5 4 3 2
3 Feb
23 17 10 28 18 4 3 5 4 2 4 2
4 Feb
23 17 10 27 17 3 4 5 6 4 4 0
Shvakim Panorama
5 Feb
21 16 11 25 16 4 4 2 7 5 3 4 2
5 Feb
25 14 10 26 18 3 4 5 6 3 4 2
6 Feb
23 16 10 25 19 3 4 6 5 4 3 2
6 Feb
25 14 9 27 18 2 4 6 7 3 3 2

Preliminary exit polls

Source Party
Kadima Labor Party Shas Likud Yisrael Beiteinu Jewish Home National Union Gil United Torah Judaism Meretz United Arab List–Ta'al Hadash Balad
17th Knesset 29 19 12 12 11 9 7 6 5 4 3 3
Channel 1 30 13 9 28 14 4 3 - 5 5 2 4 3
Channel 2 29 13 10 27 15 4 3 - 5 4 3 4 3
Channel 10 30 13 9 28 15 3 3 - 5 4 4 4 2
Ynet 28 14 10 26 16 4 3 - 6 4 4 5 0

Coalition process

On 20 February the President Shimon Peres announced that Benjamin Netanyahu would be given the task of forming a government. This is the first time in which the president had not appointed the head of the largest party for this task, although there had already been several cases in which the Prime Minister was not the head of the largest party. Such a case occurred in the 1996 elections, when Netanyahu himself was elected Prime Minister by direct vote although his Likud party won fewer seats than Shimon Peres's Labor party. Peres's motivation in nominating Netanyahu was likely based upon the judgment that Netanyahu was numerically in a better position to put together a coalition. Likud's potential partners on the political right won more seats than the parties of the centre-left, who would more likely support Kadima.

Labor and Kadima initially stated they would not join a Likud-led government, although both parties scheduled further talks. Polls at the time showed that the public supported a national unity government between Likud and Kadima, with either Yisrael Beitenu or Labor as the third senior coalition member.

It later emerged that Labor might yet join the government, which would mean that Netanyahu would not need to have the far-right Jewish Home and National Union parties in his cabinet.

On 16 March 2009, Netanyahu signed a coalition agreement with Yisrael Beitenu, then got an extension of the coalition negotiation deadline from 20 March to 3 April 2009; he then signed a coalition agreement with Shas on 22 March 2009, and on 24 March 2009 it appeared he had been able to secure the support of the Labor Party, though large parts of the party remained sceptical about this, accusing Barak of only being interested in his own benefits under the deal. Labor's central committee approved the deal with 680 to 507 votes in favour on the same day. On 25 March, the Jewish Home also joined the coalition.

On 30 March, in accordance with the Israeli Basic Law: the government, Netanyahu informed Peres and acting Knesset speaker, Michael Eitan, that he was able to form a government and the Knesset was set to convene on 31 March 2009, in order to vote on the government in a "Vote of Confidence" and to be sworn in thereafter.. The country's 32nd government was approved that day by a majority of 69 lawmakers, with United Torah Judaism joined the following day, expanding the coalition to 74 MKs.


  1. 15 Dec
  2. Reports: Netanyahu to request two-week extension to form government Monsters and Critics, 19 March 2009
  3. Likud, Yisrael Beitenu Reach Tentative Coalition Pact Bloomberg, 16 March 2009
  4. yeshivas, boosts child allowances Haaretz, 25 March 2009
  5. Ehud Barak agrees to join coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu The Times, 25 March 2009
  6. Israel's Labor votes to join Netanyahu government Associated Press, 24 March 2009
  7. HaBayit HaYehuda to join Likud government Jewish Telegraph, 25 March 2009
  8. Basic Law: the Government (2001), 13(b): "Where the Knesset Member has formed a Government, he shall notify the President of the State and the Speaker of the Knesset to such effect, and the Speaker of the Knesset shall notify the Knesset and set a date for the presentation of the Government to the Knesset within seven days of such notification."
  9. Netanyahu government to be sworn in on March 31 Times of India
  10. [1]
  11. Israel's ruling coalition expands with another right-wing party Xinhua, 1 April 2009

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