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Today in history: First elections in Israel

Today In 1949, the elections for the Constituent Assembly were held – the first Democratic elections in the new state of Israel.

Until the establishment of the State of Israel, the ‘Council of the People’ led the Jewish settlement in the British Mandate. But it was not a full democratic body, since its members were appointed on a party-demographic basis, but without elections. The Israeli Declaration of Independence stated that the People’s Council will become a provisional government until elections are held. The elections were postponed until the end of the War of Independence, and were intended to create an assembly to establish a constitution for the State of Israel, which would determine the electoral system and the government arrangements. Despite the sharp contrast between the competing parties, the campaign was relatively calm, and most of the participants understood the magnitude of the event. In the elections, 87% of the population voted – there was no electoral threshold, so it was actually equal to one seat (out of 120), or 3,600 votes. 12 parties were elected to the assembly, and although Mapai and Mapam, the left-wing parties, won together 65 seats – Mapai preferred to form a coalition with the central and religious parties. This coalition created the first Israeli government headed by David Ben-Gurion, and the Constituent Assembly ultimately decided not to establish a constitution, but to continue electing assemblies, which were called a “Knesset” from that point.

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