As Prime Minister Menachem Begin is wanting to say, the collapse of governments is hardly a strange phenomenon in Israel.
Virtually every government in Israel's 33-year history has resigned or been reconstituted in the heat of crises, and if Begin succeeds in putting off new elections until June, he will become the first Israeli prime minister to serve a full, uninterrupted four years in office since the Jewish state was founded in 1948.
The first coalition crisis was in 1950 over a controversy surrounding education in immigrant camps. David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister, formed a new government on the basis of the same coalition, and elections were held 18 months earlier than scheduled.
In 1952, following a coalition crisis, Ben-Gurion reconstituted his government on a wider basis, and in December 1953 he abruptly resigned. Moshe Sharett formed a new government early the next year with the same coalition.
In 1955, the Sharett government resigned in the heat of a libel trial centered around Rudolph Kessner, a member of parliament, and charges of payments to arrange the escape of wealthy, privileged Jews from Nazi-occupied Hungary. Sharett reconstituted the government on a narrow coalition basis.
In December 1957 Sharett and his government resigned in a crisis surrounding leaks of secret foreign affairs decisions, and on Jan. 1, 1958, Ben-Gurion formed a new government on the basis of Sharett's coalition, after agreeing to maintain secrecy in Cabinet discussions.
On July 5, 1959, Ben-Gurion resigned because several ministers of the Mapam and Labor Unity factions voted against the government agreement to sell Israeli arms to West Germany. Ben-Gurion was unable to form a new cabinet, and the ministers remained in office as a transitional government until the November 1959 elections.
After Labor was returned to power in those elections, Ben-Gurion formed a new government in December 1959 but resigned in 1961 over the "Lavon affair," a scandal over an abortive intelligence operation in Egypt, Ben-Gurion unsuccessfully tried to form a new government, and then remained prime minister when Levi Eshkol formed a new Labor alignment coalition.
Ben-Gurion resigned in 1963, citing personal reasons, and Eshkol became prime minister with the same coalition. Eshkol resigned in December 1964 in another dispute over the Lavon affair, but a new Eshkol government was formed on the identical coalition basis. On June 6, 1967, at the outbreak of the Six-Day War, the government gave way to one of national unity. Eshkol died in February 1969 and Golda Meir formed a government with the same Cabinet.
In August 1970 the Likud quit the government over its stance toward the U.S. peace initiative, and the national unity government collapsed. Meir carried on with a narrow parliamentary majority, and was reelected in December 1973.
In April 1974, however, she was forced to resign during recriminations over Israel's preparedness for the 1973 war, and Yitzhak Rabin formed a narrow Labor coalition in June 1974.
In December 1976 orthodox religious parties quit the coalition in a furor because a ceremony marking the arrival of the first U.S.-made F15 fighters violated the Sabbath. Rabin, who had already become involved in a scandal involving an illegal foreign bank account, resigned.
The next month parliament dissolved itself, and in May 1977 Menachem Begin was elected. In June 1977 he formed the Likud coalition, which has been in power since.