Twelfth Knesset
November 21, 1988 - July 13, 1992

Speaker: Dov Shilansky

Government 23  Under Yitzhak Shamir
Government 24  Under Yitzhak Shamir

Elected Officials:
In this Knesset, there were no elections for president or for state comptroller.

Selected Events:
5.12.1988 A debate was held on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee for Traffic Accidents.

3.1.1989 The Knesset debated the declaration of the PLO and Yasser Arafat’s statement that “Every Palestinian leader who will call to end the Intifada is exposing himself to an internal uproar against him.”
23.1.1989 The Knesset discussed the hunger strike of the West Bank settlements’ leaders in front of the Prime Minister’s Office because of the ongoing Intifada.
5.6.1989 President Haim Herzog mitigated the sentence of the leaders of the Jewish Underground Movement from life imprisonment to ten years.
30.10.1989 The Knesset debated the state of security in Jerusalem.
1.11.1989 A motion for the agenda was raised by MK Haim Ramon on the Baker Plan and the participation of Israel in a dialogue with the Palestinians, as per Egypt’s request.
8.11.1989 A motion for the agenda was raised by MK Hagai Meirom on the performance of Wagner’s musical works by the Philharmonic Orchestra.
4.12.1989 The Knesset discussed the need for improvement in Arab-Jewish relations within the Green Line.
6.12.1989 A motion for the agenda was presented by MK Dan Tichon on the crisis in the “Koor” Concern.
18.12.1989 An announcement was made by the Government on the ministries’ preparations for massive immigrant absorption from the Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and Middle Eastern countries.

5.2.1990 The Government and Knesset Speaker reported on the terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Egypt.
15.3.1990 The Government was ousted in a no-confidence motion presented by the Alignment – 60 in favor, 55 against.
11.4.1990 MK Shimon Peres attempted to present his new government, but had no majority for its approval.
21.5.1990 The Speaker of the Knesset reported on the murder of seven Arab laborers in Rishon LeZion.
20.6.1990 Motions for the agenda were raised regarding the dialogue between the United States and the PLO.
4.7.1990 Motions for the agenda were presented by right-wing and left-wing MKs on the findings in the report of the “B’Tselem” organization.
25.7.1990 A motion for the agenda was raised on the first Tze’elim Disaster (in which five soldiers were killed and dozens injured by a shell that fell on a group of soldiers during training) and the safety of training in the IDF.
7.8.1990 Motions for the agenda were presented on the Iraqi invasion to Kuwait.
6.11.1990 An announcement was made by the Speaker of the Knesset on the murder of former MK Meir Kahane in New York.

21.1.1991 The Speaker of the Knesset spoke of the behavior of the home front during times of Scud missile attacks, which began on January 18th.
23.1.1991 A debate was held on the aggressiveness of Saddam Hussein and his threat to world peace. This debate was continued on January 28th and February 4th. The Gulf War ended on February 28th, and life in Israel returned to normal.
6.5.1991 A debate was held on US-Israel relations, following the suspension of guarantees in the amount of 10 billion dollars for immigrant absorption in return for halting the development of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
20.5.1991 Lech Valesa, President of Poland, addressed the Knesset plenum and asked for forgiveness from the Jewish people on the conduct of the Polish nation during the Holocaust.
27.5.1991 The Speaker of the Knesset congratulated the Ethiopian immigrants of “Operation Moses” – an aerial operation that brought Ethiopian Jewry to Israel, which took place on May 25th for 34 hours and brought to Israel some 14,000 immigrants.
11.6.1991 The Knesset debated the public demand for a change in the Israeli governing system.
16.7.1991 The Knesset discussed International Women’s Day and the status of women in Israel.
22.10.1991 A debate was held on the predicament of the municipalities, the difficult financial state of immigrant-absorbing development towns, and the state of unemployment.
28.10.1991 The Speaker of the Knesset congratulated the Israeli delegation on its departure for the Madrid Conference, which opened on October 30th with the participation of Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians. The delegation was led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
25.11.1991 The Knesset debated the increase in violence toward women.
25.12.1991 Minister of Foreign Affairs David Levy reported on the recognition of Israel in the independent republics of the former Soviet Union.

13.1.1992 A no-confidence motion was presented by several factions due to the dimensions of poverty in Israel, following a report of the National Insurance Institute stating that approximately half a million citizens – among them many children – are living under the poverty threshold.
21.1.1992 The Knesset marked the 50th anniversary to the Wannsee Conference, in which the decision on the Final Solution was accepted.
21.1.1992 A debate was held concerning the privatization of governmental hospitals.
4.2.1992 A motion for the agenda was raised by MK Uriel Lynn on three Supreme Court decisions that – in his words – “Create a concern in the relations between the legislative and judicial branches.” These decisions, taken in December 1991, instructed the Speaker of the Knesset and the Knesset to behave a certain way.
16.3.1992 A memorial plenum sitting was held in honor of Menahem Begin, former Prime Minister and leader of the Likud, who passed away.
18.3.1992 The Speaker of the Knesset spoke of the terrorist attack at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, caused by a car bomb, killing 20 and injuring about 200.

The Twelfth Knesset officiated for three years and eight months, during which two governments presided, both headed by Yitzhak Shamir. The first of which – the 23rd Government – was forced to resign after a defeat in a no-confidence motion over the negotiations with the Palestinians. The elections to the 13th Knesset were brought forward following the breakdown of the coalition in Shamir’s second government. Three right-wing parties – Tzomet, Tehiya and Moledet – resigned from the Government in protest over the Madrid Conference.

During the first 18 months of the 12th Knesset, a National Unity Government was in office, even though the factional makeup of the Knesset enabled formation of a narrow right-wing government headed by the Likud. It was forced to resign following defeat in a no-confidence motion in March 1990 – the only time a government was ousted by a no-confidence vote. The vote was ratified in a simple majority. The Alignment, a member of the coalition, voted in favor, and most members of Shas, another coalition member, were absent from the plenum at the time of the vote. The President of the State had authorized Shimon Peres to form a government; after he failed to do so, a narrow government was formed by Yitzhak Shamir, in which MK Rechavam Ze’evi, leader of Moledet, was a member.

The governmental crisis caused by these events led to the introduction of an amendment to the Basic Law: The Knesset and to the Elections Law, restricting the ability of faction-splitting and the transition of MKs between parties for personal benefits. Furthermore, a new version of the Basic Law: The Government was ratified, also known as the “Direct Elections for Prime Minister Law.” This version of the law was initiated by four MKs of different factions: Uriel Lynn of the Likud, David Libai of the Labor Party, Amnon Rubinstein of Shinui and Yoash Tsiddon of Tzomet. Its aims were to strengthen the position of the Prime Minister and Government over the Knesset, and to stipulate that a no-confidence motion must be ratified by an absolute majority and not by a simple majority.

Other than the new Basic Law: The Government, the 12th Knesset succeeded to form two basic laws dealing with human rights: The Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation and the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty – which were ratified after acknowledging that the Knesset is not able to produce a basic law dealing with all aspects of human rights.

The Intifada continued throughout the term of the Knesset. Several brutal terrorist attacks were committed, among them the hurling of Bus 405 from Highway No. 1 in July 1989, killing 14 of its passengers. Other Intifada-related events were evident in the riots on Temple Mount during Sukkot 1990, which ended with 20 Palestinians dead and 53 injured by the security forces, as well as the murder of seven Palestinian workers in Rishon LeZion in May 1990 by a Jew.

In May 1989, the Government decided on a peace initiative, which focused on negotiations with Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and allowing to hold elections in these areas. Disagreements within the Government on the handling of the negotiations brought the downfall of the Government, as well as the objection of several Likud members (including Ariel Sharon, David Levy and Yitzhak Moday) to the entire process. The peace process took a different form after the Gulf War in 1991, reaching its high point at the Madrid Conference held in October 1991. The conference was held despite Israel’s refusal to allow a delegation of the PLO to participate in it, rather, a joint-delegation of Jordan and Arab representatives from the West Bank and Gaza Strip participated instead. It was a platform for discussions between Israel and its neighboring countries, as well as a dialogue with international representatives on matters relating to the peace process. The Knesset held frequent discussion on the subject, and the entire process was disputed by some MKs.

Israel’s policy of restraint during the Gulf War, in which 40 Scud missiles were fired onto its territory from Iraq, and its willingness to take part in the Madrid Conference, had significantly improved the international status of the State. An increase was evident in the number of states committed to diplomatic relations with Israel, as well as the weakening of the Arab embargo on the State. The US Government became deeply involved in the peace process at this time, though tension between Israel and the US increased as its administration set conditions for Israel to halt development of the Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in return for an American guarantee of 10 billion dollars for the mass immigrant absorption from the former Soviet Union.

Immigrant absorption was also at the center of public attention. The policy of “direct absorption” was discussed often. During Operation Solomon, in May 1991, 15,000 Ethiopian Jews were flown to Israel. The distress of Yemenite and Syrian Jewry was also debated.

Many issues relating to children and youth were brought to the Knesset plenum: Violence among youth, juveniles in distress, the fate of abused children, and the adoption of children from abroad.

Other issues dealt with by the public and the Knesset included the Demjanjuk trial, a crisis at “Koor Industries” of the Histadrut leading to its privatization, stationing of “Kol Israel” radio transmitters in the Aravah, closing of crossings for Palestinian workers and the importation of foreign workers, severe reports published by the “B’Tselem” organization (established in 1988) on human rights offenses in the occupied territories by Israeli authorities, and the first Tze’elim disaster – caused during training of an IDF unit.

Channel 2 and cable television began operating during this time, and live television broadcasts from the Knesset plenum began.

During the Twelfth Knesset, the Supreme Court ruled on many issues relating to parliamentary work, following an appeal made by several MKs. This brought up, in the Knesset and the public, the issue of “Judicial activism” of the Supreme Court.

Construction of a new wing south to the main Knesset building, nicknamed “The Hilton” for its resemblance to hotel hallways, was completed towards the end of the Knesset’s term.

Also towards the end of its term, the factions of Ratz, Shinui and the National Workers’ Party were united together to form Meretz. The Labor Party held, for the first time, primary elections for party leadership (in which Yitzhak Rabin was elected) and for its list for the elections to the 13th Knesset.

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