Labor Party Drops in Strength, Right-wing Gahal Adds Seats in Voting for Knesset
Menu JTA Search

Labor Party Drops in Strength, Right-wing Gahal Adds Seats in Voting for Knesset

Download PDF for this date

The Labor Government headed by Premier Golda Meir dropped in strength, and a parallel increase in strength by the right-wing Gahal (Herut-Liberal alignment) emerged today with nearly all returns counted in the election for the seventh Knesset.

The Israel Labor Party failed to regain the absolute majority of 63 seats it held in the 120-seat Knesset, it appeared on the basis of a projection of final returns made by computers. Still to be counted are final results from soldiers’ and sailors’ ballots.

While the Central Elections Committee is not expected to announce final results until next week, the following projected picture emerged today:

Outgoing, New Knesset

Labor-Mapam – 63, 58

Gahal – 22, 27

National Religious – 11, 11

Arab-Druze (pro-Labor) – 4, 4

Agudat Israel – 4, 4

Poalei Agudat Israel – 2, 2

Independent Liberals – 4, 4

New Communist (Arab, pro-Moscow) – 3, 3

Israel Communist – 1, 1

Free Center – 4, 1

State List (Ben Gurion) – 1, 3

Haolam Hazeh – 1, 1

Young Israel – 0, 0

Land of Israel – 0, 0

Peace List – 0, 0

– 120, 119

(The fate of the 120th seat was still undecided. These figures represent membership at the end of the Sixth Knesset and not the membership after it was elected. There have been a number of splits and mergers. The Alignment was formed out of the Israel Labor and Mapam parties after the Israel Labor Party was created out of the Mapai, Achdut Haavodah and Rafi parties. David Ben Gurion, who headed the 1965 Rafi faction, later became a one-man State List faction. Ishar Harari, elected as an Independent Liberal four years ago, bolted to the Labor Party. Gahal went into the Sixth Knesset with 26 members and wound up with 22 when four members seceded and created the Free Center.)

The votes counted so far point to a turnout of 80.1 percent of the 1.75 million registered voters. This means that about 15,000 votes will be needed to get a Knesset seat. Israeli law requires that an election list must get at least one percent of the valid votes in order to qualify for Knesset membership. Until the final count is made, it was not sure whether the Peace List (also called the Professors’ List) and the Land of Israel list headed by Dr. Israel Eldad have qualified. Both were approaching the one percent mark. If none of the small lists qualify, their votes will be subtracted from the total number of valid votes cast nationally and the number of votes required to gain a seat will be slightly lower. In such cases the list gaining the most votes usually benefits.


The numerical composition of the new Cabinet is likely to be somewhat similar to the present Government of National Unity, according to most observers. In order to rule by themselves, the Alignment would have to depend on the support of the four Labor-allied Arab and Druze Knesset members, something no Government has done before. Premier Meir was expected to begin consultations with the various parties aimed at the formation of a coalition Government soon–long before final results are in.

Gahal sources have announced that they will not be content with Cabinet membership that carries no responsibility for a specific ministry. Gahal was expected to be given the Justice Ministry and possibly Tourism and Development. In the present Unity Government it has two Ministers Without Portfolio.

One change already agreed upon is that Victor Shemtov of the Mapam section of the Alignment will become Housing Minister, replacing Mordechai Bentov, also of Mapam. Former Rafi members were expected to have two seats with the inclusion of Shimon Peres in the Cabinet along with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. Labor Minister Joseph Almogi, who ran on the Rafi list in 1965, was included in the Mapai element of the Alignment this year. Most observers believed that no policy changes are considered likely with the composition of the new Cabinet, Although economic questions were almost ignored in the campaign, the drop in Alignment votes was probably based on internal party considerations rather than ones of foreign policy, it was believed. One possible reason for the decline in support for the Alignment was that the appearance of the leftist Mapam on the same list with a centrist Rafi meant that on both sides of the Labor spectrum there were voters who would not accept the list as representing their views.

The swing to Gahal rather than to the Free Center, which broke away from Gahal, was interpreted by some as meaning that the majority of conservative and nationalist-minded voters preferred the policies represented by Menahem Beigin’s Herut and the Liberals (formerly General Zionists) to the extremist line taken by Shmuel Tamir’s Free Centrists. The lists (Peace, Land of Israel) which ran on the territorial question alone or that made it the principal element in their platform did not capture the imagination of the electorate. It appeared that the voting Israeli has accepted the thesis propounded by the Government that peace does not depend on what Israel says but what the Arabs do. Thus, the vast majority gave their votes to the parties which have ruled Israel since the 1867 war. These stand for a retention of the cease-fire situation on the basis of reciprocity and for making no sweeping changes in the status of the Israeli-held territories until a decision on their future can or must be taken.


Gahal, in picking up strength, apparently reflected support of a segment of the Israeli population which shares its outright opposition to the return of the occupied territories. Its Liberal party component favors unification of the West Bank and Israel.

The Labor Party said in a communique that the election results showed that “the people had voted for stability and for a large Labor representation,” noting that the Labor members of the new Knesset will be more than twice that of Gahal, the next largest grouping. Herut leader Beigin said, “there is now a majority in the Knesset against the renewed partition of Eretz Israel.”

Most of the other parties expressed satisfaction with the results but there were recriminations between Haolam Hazeh and the Peace List, each accusing the other of having divided the votes, and between the Free Center and Land of Israel. Several Labor Alignment functionaries accused Mr. Ben Gurion’s State List of having prevented Labor from retaining its absolute majority in the Knesset.

In a personal appraisal of the results broadcast on Kol Israel, the State radio, Foreign Minister Abba Eban said they “amount to a clear vote of confidence in the present national leadership and in the international policies of the Labor Party. It appears that the Labor Alignment, together with the associated Arab groups, has won a clear majority.”

“I was especially gratified at the results in Jerusalem and the significant participation of Arab residents in the voting. The main difference between our party and its opponents lay in the question of peace and security. The electorate refused to reinforce or support those whose platform would have closed the door to a negotiated peace just as it rejected the defeatist criticism which alleged that we were not doing enough for peace.

“It is my definite impression that the Israeli people wants a Government with enough freedom of thought and action both to defend and strengthen national security and to advance the hope of a negotiated peace within new secure and agreed boundaries. Extremism of all kinds has been rejected and a realistic and balanced patriotism has been confirmed.”


One of the surprises of the election was the large Arab turnout in Jerusalem where Mayor Teddy Kollek was returned to office. His Alignment list together with an affiliated Merchants and Artisans List gained nearly 50 percent of the votes and may have an absolute City Council majority.

Some 9,000 East Jerusalem Arabs cast ballots, ignoring Arab guerrilla reprisal threats and a demand for a general strike broadcast by Amman radio. Mr. Kollek told newsmen that his victory was a mandate for a policy of tolerance toward the Arabs. His opponents had taken a tougher line on treatment of Arabs of East Jerusalem. Some observers said that the heavy turnout of Arab voters in East Jerusalem might have a beneficial effect on Arab-Israeli relations. Under pre-1967 Jordanian law, only male property owners had the franchise. Israel gave the vote to men and women over 18, and 35,000 of East Jerusalem’s 75,000 residents became eligible.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund