Israeli prime ministerial election, 2001

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2001 Israeli prime ministerial election

← 1999 6 February 2001 (2001-02-06) 2003 →
  Majority party Minority party
  Ariel Sharon 2001.jpg 125px
Candidate Ariel Sharon Ehud Barak
Party Likud Labor
Popular vote 1,698,077 1,023,944
Percentage 62.39% 37.61%

Prime Minister before election

Ehud Barak

Elected Prime Minister

Ariel Sharon

Elections for Prime Minister were held in Israel on 6 February 2001 following the resignation of the incumbent, Labour's Ehud Barak. Barak stood for re-election against Likud's Ariel Sharon.

It was the third and last Prime Ministerial election (separate elections were scrapped before the next Knesset elections in 2003), and the only one which was not held alongside simultaneous Knesset elections.

Voter turnout was 62.3%, the lowest turnout for any national election held in Israel. The low turnout was at least partially due to many Israeli Arabs boycotting the poll in protest at the October 2000 events in which 12 Israeli Arabs were killed by the police.[1] Other possible reasons are Sharon's massive advantage in advance polls, and the lack of enthusiasm of Barak supporters due to his perceived failings, notably, the failure of the 2000 Camp David talks with the Palestinians, and the "turbine affair" in which Barak yielded to the religious parties' pressure, violating previous promises.


Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon

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In 2000, 18 years after Israel occupied Southern Lebanon in the 1982 Lebanon War, Israel unilaterally withdrew its remaining forces from the "security zone" in southern Lebanon. Several thousand members of the South Lebanon Army (and their families) left with the Israelis. The following month, the UN confirmed that Israel's force deployment was now entirely consistent with the various security council resolutions with regard to Lebanon.[2] Lebanon claims that Israel continues to occupy Lebanese territory called "Sheba'a Farms" (however this area was governed by Syria until 1967 when Israel took control). The Sheba'a Farms dispute has provided Hezbollah with a ruse to maintain warfare with Israel. The Lebanese government, in contravention of the UN resolution, did not assert sovereignty in the area, which came under the control of Hezbollah.

2000 Camp David Summit

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In the Fall of 2000, talks were held at Camp David to reach a "final status" agreement on the Israeli=Palestine conflict. The summit collapsed after Yasser Arafat would not accept a proposal drafted by American and Israeli negotiators. Barak was prepared to offer the entire Gaza Strip, a Palestinian capital in a part of East Jerusalem, 73% of the West Bank (excluding eastern Jerusalem) raising to 90-94% after 10–25 years, and financial reparations for Palestinian refugees for peace. Israel would therefore have gained an additional 6-10% of the West Bank, including more of East Jerusalem than previously held, and Palestinian leaders would have had to give up the Right of Return. Arafat turned down the offer without making a counter-offer.[3][4]

Second Intifada

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On September 28, 2000, Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, the following day the Palestinians launched the al-Aqsa Intifada, which included increased Palestinian terror attacks being made against Israeli civilians. Both Palestinian and Israeli sources allege the uprising was planned much earlier.[5][6]

October 2000 events

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The October 2000 events were a series of large-scale violent riots carried out by Israeli-Arabs, mostly alongside major Israeli highways, following the outbreak of the second intifada. In some cases, the riots escalated into clashes with the Israeli Police involving rock-throwing, firebombing, and live-fire. Policemen used tear-gas and opened fire with rubber-coated bullets and later live ammunition in some instances, many times in contravention with police protocol governing riot-dispersion. In all, during these riots 12 Arab citizens of Israel and a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip were killed by Israeli Police, while an Israeli Jew was killed when his car was hit by a rock on the Tel-Aviv-Haifa freeway.

These events led to a significant drop in support for Ehud Barak amongst the Israeli-Arab population. In addition, the severity of the events in which main highways were blocked, many vehicles were attacked, communities and government institutions were attacked, full or partial blockade was imposed on several towns, and in which many shops were burned, led also to a decrease in Ehud Barak's popularity among the Israeli Jewish public.

Following the riots, there was a high degree of tension between Jewish and Arab citizens and distrust between the Arab citizens and police. An investigation committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or, reviewed the violent riots and found that the police were poorly prepared to handle such riots and charged major officers with bad conduct. The Or Commission reprimanded Prime Minister Ehud Barak and recommended Shlomo Ben-Ami (then the Internal Security Minister) not serve again as Minister of Public Security. The committee also blamed Arab leaders and Knesset members for contributing to inflaming the atmosphere and making the violence more severe.


Israeli prime ministerial election, 2001
Party Candidate Votes %
Likud Ariel Sharon 1,698,077 62.4
Labor Ehud Barak 1,023,944 37.6
Invalid or blank votes 83,917 3.0%
Total votes 2,805,938 100.0
Likud gain from Labor


After winning the election, Sharon needed to form a government in the Knesset. However, because there had been no Knesset elections, Labour remained the largest party.

The result was a national unity government involving eight parties; Labour, Likud, Shas, the Centre Party, the National Religious Party, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael BaAliyah, the National Union and Yisrael Beiteinu. The government initially had 26 ministers, though this later rose to 29.

New Knesset elections were called in 2003, which resulted in a landslide victory for Sharon's Likud.


  1. Barak concedes defeat The Guardian, 6 February 2001
  2. Security Council endorses Secretary-General's conclusion on Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon as of 16 June United Nations, 18 June 2000
  3. Camp David Proposals for Final Palestine-Israel Peace Settlement
  4. Israeli Proposal to Palestinians and Syria Information Regarding Israel's Security (IRIS)
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  6. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

External links