Elections for the 17th Knesset were held in Israel on 28 March 2006. The voting resulted in a plurality of seats for the then-new Kadima party, followed by the Labour Party, and a major loss for the Likud party.
After the election, the government was formed by the Kadima, Labour, Shas, and Gil parties, with the Yisrael Beiteinu party joining the government later. The Prime Minister was Ehud Olmert, leader of Kadima, who had been the acting prime minister going into the election.
In the 2003 elections, Likud, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had a convincing win by Israeli standards, winning 38 seats in the 120-member Knesset (parliament), with Sharon perceived as tough anti-terrorist leader on the wings of his 2002 Operation Defensive Shield. Labour, led by Amram Mitzna under slogans for "disengagement" from Gaza, won only 19 seats and did not initially join the new government.
Following the 2003 elections Likud suffered severe divisions over several positions taken by Sharon, most notably his adoption of a plan to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip. This was exactly the position taken by Labour and denounced as being defeatist by Sharon