The main events, which occurred during the term of the 12th Knesset were the
continuation of the intifada, the Gulf War and and the beginning of the Middle
East peace process. During the first 15 months of the 12th Knesset another national
unity government served, even though according to the political make-up of the
Knesset, the Likud could have formed a narrow government. The government was
forced to resign after the Knesset passed a motion of
no-confidence in iton March 15, 1990, with the Labor Party voting in favor and
five of the six Shas MKs being absent.
After efforts by Labor leader Shimon Peres to form a government failed,
Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir formed a narrow government.
The Gulf War: Gas masks, January 1991.
Thoughout the term of the 12th Knesset the intifada continued to rage in Judea,
Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and several grave terrorist attacks occurred, including
the deliberate rolling down of bus No. 405 into a ravine along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem
road, in which 14 passangers were killed. Additional serious events connected with the
intifada were the disturbances on the Temple Mount during the Feast of Tabernacles,
which ended with the killing of 20 Palestinians and the wounding of 53 on the Mount
by the Israeli security forces, and the murder of seven Palestinian workers by Ami
Popper in Rishon Letzion on 20 May, 1990.
On May 15, 1989, the government announced a peace initiative, at the center of
which were the opening of talks with Palestinians from the territories and the
handling of elections there. It was emphasized that no talks would be held with the
PLO. The National Unity Government fell apart against the background of differences
of opinion on how the negotiations should be run, and the nature of the agreement
to which Israel should strive. These were issues widely debated by the public and
in the Knesset. Following the Gulf War, in which, at the request of the US, Israel
remained passive, even though it suffered at least 40 direct hits by Iraqi Scud
missiles, the peace process was given a new impetus and changed course, with the
Madrid Conference at its center.
The Conference convened in the Spanish capital at the end of October 1991,
and following it, bilateral talks opened between Israel and its neighbors, as well as
multilateral talks on specific issues. Within this framework as well, Israel
refused to hold contacts with Palestinians directly and officially
connected to the PLO, and many discussions took place on this issue both
within and outside the Knesset.
MK Ge'ula Cohen from the Tehiya Party and her son MK Tzachi Hanegbi from the Likud, 15.5.1989.
Following Israel's policy of constraint in the course of the Gulf War and the Madrid
Conference, a significant improvement occurred in Israel's inernational status, which
manifested itself in a significant rise in the number of states maintaining diplomatic relations
with it. The Arab boycott was also implemented less rigorously and the US involvement in the peaceprocess intensified. However, towards the end of the period the tension between Israel and theUS grew against the background of the Washington's conditioning the granting of 10 billion dollarsworth of American loan guarantees for the absorption of new immigrants, on the stoppage of allsettlement activities in the territories.
On their way home: Operation Solomon, 25.5.1991.
Other issues which were dealt with in this period were the immigration from the Soviet Union,
and later the republics of the former Soviet Union, and especially the question of
"Direct absorption". "Operation Solomon", which took place on 24 May, 1991,
involved the flying of 15,000 Ethiopian Jews directly from Ethiopia to Israel.
Intifada: Members of the border police patrolling the Kasba in Nablus, 23.1.1990.
The distress of the Jews who remained in Yemen and Syria also came up
for discussion. Other issues dealt with by the 12th Knesset were: the
Demjanjuk trial; the placing ofthe Voice of America transmitters in the
Arava; the problems of battered children, youth in distress and
violence among youth, and the problem of the adoption of children abroad;
the problem of foreign workers in Israel;
the AIDS problem and the "Betzelem" reports on human rights violations. In this
period the second television channel and cable TV started to function in Israel, and
direct braodcasts from the Knesset plenum were begun.
In the course of the term of the 12th Knesset three important basic laws were
enacted: theBasic Law: Freedom of Occupation,
the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom,
and the new version of the Basic Law: the
Government, which introduced the system of the direct election of the Prime
As a result of the ugly horse-trading that went on in the efforts to
form a new government in the three months after the government was
brought down in March 1990,
the Basic Law: the Knessetwas amended in
order to limit manifestations of "Kalanterism" - the phenomena of politicians
changing political parties in return for material benefits. There was also an
increase in the number of petitions to the High Court of
Justice, in connection with the work of the Knesset, and the Knesset held
numerous debates that dealt with the functioning of the government system and the