Sixth Knesset Elections Are Held in Israel

November 1, 1965

Elections for the Sixth Knesset are held in Israel. The background to the 1965 elections began in June 1963 when David Ben-Gurion resigned as Prime Minister for the second time (he had previously resigned in 1953 but returned to the premiership in 1955). The resignation came as a surprise to both the members of Ben-Gurion’s cabinet and to the Israeli public Two days later, the Mapai Central Committee chose Finance Minister Levi Eshkol to replace Ben-Gurion. A new government with Eshkol at its head was formed on June 26, 1963.

Despite the fact that Eshkol had been Ben-Gurion’s handpicked successor, the former leader soon turned against Eshkol. The two leaders clashed over a variety of issues. These included; Eshkol’s refusal to reopen the Lavon Affair ( a complicated event regarding a botched operation in 1954 in Egypt), Eshkol’s cooperation with President Lyndon Johnson in developing the Dimona nuclear facility and the government’s decision to reinter the ideological leader of the Israeli right Ze’ev Jabotinsky, in Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion fumed at Eshkol for aligning himself with the ‘middle generation’ of Mapai leaders (Golda Meir, Pinhas Sapir and others) while marginalizing Ben-Gurion’s proteges (Shimon Peres and Moshe Dayan).

At the 1965 Mapai party convention, Ben-Gurion and the ‘young guard’ again called for the reopening of the Lavon Affair and also opposed Eshkol’s proposal of an alignment between Mapai and Ahdut Ha’Avoda. A secret ballot at the convention resulted in a victory for Eshkol.

Eshkol and other members of the “middle generation” successfully fought back the challenge from David Ben-Gurion and fortified the left by creating a merger of Mapai and Ahdut Ha’Avoda to create what came to be known as the Alignment. Ben-Gurion would leave the party and establish a new party, Rafi. The Alignment wins 45 seats and Eshkol returns as Prime Minister. Rafi wins 10 seats. Eshkol was Israel’s Prime Minister during the June 1967 War.

The photo above shows Prime Minister Levi Eshkol casting his ballot in the 1965 election.

For a more detailed analysis of the 1965 Knesset elections (and all Knesset elections), visit the National Library of Israel.