Sixteenth Knesset  
February 17, 2003   April 17, 2006
  Results of Elections
  Factional Make-up
  Speaker: Reuven Rivlin
  Knesset Members
Elected Officials:
State Comptroller: Micha Lindenstrauss
Government 30
Under Ariel Sharon
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin</FONT></DIV>
Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin

Selected Events:
12.3.2003 The Knesset debated the motion for the agenda regarding the renewed wave of terrorist acts, following a week in which 17 citizens were murdered in a terrorist attack in Haifa, a couple was murdered in Kiryat Arba, and a soldier was killed in Hebron. These were all part of the Al Aqsa Intifada which broke out in September 2000.
24.3.2003 The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on the Trading in Women and Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on Violence in Sports were formed.
25.3.2003 The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee for the Location and Restitution of Assets of Holocaust Victims was re-established.
26.3.2003 Motions for the agenda on the Iraq War and its implications were debated. Military forces of the United States, Britain, and their allies invaded Iraq on March 20th in an attempt to dissolve the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
13.5.2003 Motions for the agenda were presented on the matter of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad’s statements on the Golan Heights. Assad claimed that the retrieval of the Golan Heights is of utmost importance to Syria.
21.5.2003 The Knesset debated on motions for the agenda regarding the reports of the Israeli Democracy Institute on the state of democracy in Israel.
4.6.2003 US President George Bush, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen met in Aqaba. The three expressed their commitment to end the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and to work towards the establishment of two countries for the two peoples.
16.7.2003 A motion for the agenda on the protest of the single mothers was presented. Vicky Knafo, a single mother, left her home in Mitzpe Ramon on July 2nd, and began a marching protest towards the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem. She was joined by other single mothers in protest of the budget cuts in welfare that were initiated by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
13.8.2003 An urgent motion for the agenda on shooting incidents at the north, terrorist attacks and the future of the peace process was raised. A teenager from Shlomi was killed by Hezbollah fire on August 10th and two terrorist attacks were committed on August 12th, killing two and severely injuring two others.
21.10.2003 A special sitting was held marking the 30th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
18.11.2003 The Speaker of the Knesset spoke of the terrorist attack in Istanbul. Two car bombs were detonated on Shabbat, November 15th, near two synagogues in Istanbul. 27 people were killed, six of whom were members of the Jewish community, and hundreds were hurt.
19.11.2003 The Knesset debated a motion for the agenda on the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the screening of the movie “Jenin, Jenin”. The movie, directed by Arab-Israeli Mohammad Bakri, was filmed following the IDF combat in Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield.
17.12.2003 Motions for the agenda were raised on the capturing of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by US military forces and its regional implications.
31.12.2003 Motions for the agenda were presented on Syrian President Assad’s proposal for peace talks; motions for the agenda were also presented on the annual report of the National Council for the Child.

12.1.2004 The Knesset debated the Prime Minister’s plan for the evacuation of settlements. The Disengagement Plan, dealing with the removal of Jewish settlements and military bases from Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria, was presented in December 2003 during a lecture at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya.
13.1.2004 A special sitting was held for a debate on the latest rulings of the Supreme Court on matters of the state budget. These rulings – concerning the integration of disabled children in special education with the regular education system and setting standards for a respectable existence – brought the Knesset to debate over the extent that the Supreme Court can meddle in the work and considerations of the legislative branch.
11.2.2004 An earthquake caused fractures in the Knesset building and the delay of a plenum sitting.
17.2.2004 A debate was held on holding a referendum on the Disengagement Plan.
23.2.2004 A special plenum sitting was held marking the 800th anniversary of the Rambam’s (Maimomides) passing.
15.3.2004 The Knesset debated the Disengagement Plan and the Government’s policy within the occupied territories.
3.5.2004 The Knesset Channel was initiated and began partial broadcasting from the plenum and the committees. The Channel began operating to its full extent in October 2004, with the opening of the winter session.
19.10.2004 A debate was held on the increase in organized crime in Israel, according to the 2003 Crime Report.
26.10.2004 The Government’s announcement on its decision (No. 1996) regarding the revised Disengagement Plan, was ratified.
17.11.2004 The Knesset discussed the state of the Palestinian Authority following Arafat’s death. Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Arafat died on November 11th and was buried in Ramallah.
Ariel and Omri Sharon during the first reading debate on the 2005 Budget Law, December 1st 2005
Ariel and Omri Sharon during the first reading debate on the 2005 Budget Law, December 1st 2005

10.1.2005 Thousands of settlers from the West Bank protested across from the Knesset building in objection to the Disengagement Plan.
18.1.2005 The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee for the Location and Restitution of Assets of Holocaust Victims submitted its final report on the location of assets found in Israeli banks. The Knesset approved the report, thereby ratifying its moral value.
25.1.2005 The Knesset marked its anniversary in Sderot and Kibbutz Nir Am, sympathizing with the citizens living under continuous Qassam rockets attacks. Its festive sitting focused on the need for a constitution.
2.2.2005 Horst Kohler, President of Germany, spoke at the plenum to mark the 40th anniversary of German-Israeli diplomatic relations. He opened his speech with thankful words spoken in Hebrew. Eight MKs left the plenum in protest.
9.2.2005 The Knesset debated a motion for the agenda regarding the Sharm-a-Sheikh summit. The summit, held on February 8th, was participated by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdallah of Jordan, and Chairman of Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared in the summit on the ending of the Intifada.
28.3.2005 A bill for the Basic Law: Referendum, presented by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, was rejected in its first reading by 72 MKs (39 voted in favor and 3 abstained).
23.5.2005 The Speaker of the Knesset closed a plenum sitting attended by a single MK, Jamal Zahalka. The sitting was renewed several minutes later.
14.6.2005 The Knesset voted against the Prime Minister’s concluding announcement regarding political corruption.
6.7.2005 A parliamentary assistant who had dyed his hair orange in protest of the Disengagement Plan, was denied entrance to the Knesset.
27.7.2005 The Knesset appointed the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee as the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee for Uncovering Corruption in the Government System of Israel.
10.8.2005 A special recess sitting was held on the Disengagement Plan and political corruption. The execution of the Plan began on August 15th and lasted eight days. Israel withdrew its civilian settlements and military bases from the Gaza Strip, Gush Katif and four settlements in Northern Samaria.
13.9.2005 A special plenum recess sitting was held on the destruction of synagogues in Gush Katif by Palestinians.
1.11.2005 The first building in the new “Kedma” wing of the Knesset was inaugurated.
22.11.2005 A debate was held on the status of Jonathan Pollard’s continued imprisonment in the US.
23.11.2005 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and 13 Likud MKs split from the Likud faction and formed the Achrayut Leumit parliamentary group, which later changed its name to Kadima.

A Selection of Enacted Laws

The Sixteenth Knesset officiated for a bit longer than three years, during which one government presided – the 31st Government, headed by Ariel Sharon.

The elections to the 16th Knesset were conducted in the traditional manner, with no direct elections for the Prime Minister. The Likud, headed by Ariel Sharon, received 38 seats – double the size of the Labor Party, headed by Amram Mitzna. Many of the new Knesset Members of the Likud were relatively young. Shinui, headed by Joseph (Tomy) Lapid, presented a militant anti-religious front during the elections and won 15 seats. Its achievement followed many years of growing power among the religious parties and the number of their representatives was reduced at these elections from 27 to 22.

Theoretically, one government presided during the term of the 16th Knesset. In reality, three different governments held office: The first was a center-right government consisting of the Likud, Shinui, the National Union and the National Religious Party. It dissolved during 2004 prior to the vote on the 2005 Budget Law and its components of the Disengagement Plan. The second government was a center-left one that implemented the Plan, and it was comprised of the Likud, United Torah Judaism, and the Labor Party. Following the completion of the Disengagement Plan, in August 2005, the Likud split to form Kadima, headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The third government was a one-party government – consisting of Kadima – and it officiated as a transitional government after the Likud and the Labor Party resigned. The Prime Minister’s stroke and hospitalization had brought Ehud Olmert to serve as Interim Prime Minister.

An integral part of the Knesset’s debates were on the subject of the Disengagement Plan and the vigorous acts of protest committed by right-wing parties and representatives of the settlers. These were triggered by the harsh scenes seen during the implementation of the Plan and the evacuation of the settlers from Gush Katif and the northern parts of the Gaza Strip and Samaria. Numerous laws related to the Plan were passed by the Knesset. Other subjects to occupy the Knesset were the increase in targeted killings of terrorists, committed by the IDF as a result of the increase in terrorist acts. The construction of the Israeli-West Bank Barrier began in an attempt to prevent the entrance of terrorists to the populated areas of Israel.

Sharon’s first Minister of Finance, Benjamin Netanyahu, enacted an economic policy which included substantial cuts in the State’s budget, reforms in the banking system, pension funds, municipalities and the sea ports of Israel. His policy did produce some improvement in the State’s economy, promoting a recession which resulted in a decrease of inflation to less than 2% per year, and increasing the unemployment rates to higher than 10%. This policy, however, included extensive cuts in budgets of welfare, and caused economic distress among the poverty-stricken populations and a weakening in the status of the middle class. Demonstrations of protest, best known by the fight of the single mothers led by Vicky Knafo, arrived at the gates of the Knesset and beyond them. The Knesset held frequent debates over the economic policies and its social outcomes.

Minister of Education Limor Livnat’s reform plan in the education system, based on the recommendations of the Dovrat Task Force, encountered fierce objection in the Knesset. The main objections were claims that it is endorsing privatization of the national education system of Israel.

The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee for the Location and Restitution of Assets of Holocaust Victims presented its final, severe report – which resulted in the legislation of the Holocaust Victims Property Law.

During the tenure of the 16th Knesset, the Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee acted to promote consent for a constitution. The Committee cooperated with the Israel Democracy Institute and other academic factors, but it did not conclude its work during the Knesset’s term.

Despite its achievements, the Sixteenth Knesset had suffered from a low public image due to the increase in criminal investigations against Knesset Members, including that against Prime Minister Sharon and his sons – one of which, Omri, served as a Likud MK. The severity of these cases reached its climax with two Likud MKs charged with double voting, on May 18th 2003. The Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin asked the Police to investigate the matter, allowing police forces to enter the Knesset building for the first time since the establishment of the Knesset. This scandal brought forward the installment of a new electronic voting system, as well as the formation of a Public Committee for the Rules of Ethics, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Zamir. The Sixteenth Knesset also annulled the automatic immunity given to Members of the Knesset who are served with indictments.

Towards the end of the Knesset’s tenure, the Likud split into two parties and “Kadima” was established, headed by the Prime Minister. It was the first time an incumbent Prime Minister split from an existing party. Kadima was joined by members of other parties, including senior members of the Labor Party – Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Dalia Itzik. For procedural reasons many of them had to resign from the Knesset in order to run in the elections to the 17th Knesset on behalf of a new party. This was the cause for the resignation of 13 Knesset Members in the last two months of its tenure, while only seven resigned prior to this period. The Shinui party was immersed in a deep internal crisis towards the elections, which brought about its splitting and led to its termination.

The Knesset Channel began broadcasting as the Winter Session of 2004 opened. Its broadcasts grew gradually to 24 hours a day throughout the week until the entrance of Shabbat on Fridays. Great progress was made in the construction of the new wing – “Kedma” – of the Knesset, which was planned during the Fourteenth Knesset. An underground parking facility was opened for Knesset employees and guests, and in November 2005, several administrative departments moved into the new wing.

Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, at the Chagall State Hall, March 15th 2005
Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, at the Chagall State Hall, March 15th 2005

4.1.2006 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke and lost consciousness.
5.1.2006 Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was granted Prime Ministerial authority.
1.2.2006 The Amona settlement was vacated: MK Effie Eitam was injured during a struggle with the security forces.
13.2.2006 The Knesset marked its 57th anniversary and conducted a debate on the constitution proposals drafted by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
22.2.2006 The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee debated over the Iranian nuclear program and the strengthening of the Hamas, as well as the continuing Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot and neighboring communities.
10.3.2006 Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented the Realignment Plan to the media. The Plan spoke of an almost complete withdrawal of the settlements in Judea and Samaria, consolidating them into large groups of settlements.

Selected images from the 16th Knesset
The Yatom brothers, 23.10.04 Voting on the 2005 budget Knesset Member, Inbal Gavriely, 17.2.03

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