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Likud Bloc

In the ninth Knesset elections in May 1977, the center-right Likud alliance emerged victorious and replaced the previously dominant Labor alignment for the first time in the history of independent Israel. The Likud Bloc, founded in 1973, consisted of the Free Center, Herut (Tnuat HaHerut or Freedom Movement), Laam (For the Nation), and Gahal (Freedom-Liberal Bloc). In large part, Likud was the direct ideological descendant of the Revisionist Party, established by Vladimir Jabotinsky in 1925.

The Revisionist Party, so named to underscore the urgency of revision in the policies of the WZO's Executive, advocated militancy and ultranationalism as the primary political imperatives of the Zionist struggle for Jewish statehood. The Revisionist Party demanded that the entire mandated territory of historical Palestine on both sides of the Jordan River, including Transjordan, immediately become a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. Revisionist objectives clashed with the policies of the British authorities, Labor Zionists, and Palestinian Arabs. The Revisionist Party, in which Menachem Begin played a major role, contended that the British must permit unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine and demanded that the Jewish Legion be reestablished and that Jewish youths be trained for defense.

The Revisionist Party also attacked the Histadrut, whose Labor Zionist leadership under Ben-Gurion was synonymous with the leadership of the politically dominant Mapai. Ben-Gurion accused the revisionists of being "fascists"; the latter countercharged that the policies being pursued by Ben-Gurion and his Labor Zionist allies, including Chaim Weizmann, were so conciliatory toward the British authorities and Palestinian Arabs and so gradual in terms of state-building as to be self-defeating.

In 1933 the Revisionist Party seceded from the WZO and formed the rival New Zionist Organization. After 1936 the revisionists rejected British and official Zionist policies of restraint in the face of Arab attacks, and they formed two anti-British and anti-Arab guerrilla groups. One, the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization, Irgun for short) was formed in 1937; an offshoot of the Irgun, the Stern Gang also known as Lehi (from Lohamei Herut Israel, Fighters for Israel's Freedom), was formed in 1940. These revisionist paramilitary groups operated independently of, and at times in conflict with, the official Zionist defense organization, the Haganah; they engaged in systematic terror and sabotage against the British authorities and the Arabs.

After independence Prime Minister Ben-Gurion dissolved the Irgun and other paramilitary organizations such as Lehi and the Palmach. In 1948 remnants of the dissolved Irgun created Herut.

In the mid-1960s, Herut took steps to broaden its political base and attain greater legitimacy. In 1963 it established the Blue-White (Tkhelet-Lavan) faction to contest the previously boycotted Histadrut elections. In 1965 Herut and the Liberal Party (see Appendix B) formed Gahal (Gush Herut-Liberalim), a parliamentary and electoral bloc, to contest both Knesset and Histadrut elections. The final step in gaining greater political legitimacy occurred just before the outbreak of the June 1967 War, when Begin and his Gahal associates agreed to join the government to demonstrate internal Israeli unity in response to an external threat.

Gahal continued as part of the Meir cabinet formed after the 1969 elections. Gahal ministers withdrew from the cabinet in 1970 to protest what they believed to be Prime Minister Meir's conciliatory policy on territorial issues. In the summer of 1973, Gahal organized the Likud alignment in which Herut continued to be preeminent.

As the 1970s began, the social base of Israeli politics had become highly complex, and political fluidity resulted. A major catalyst in creating a new mood was the October 1973 War, known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War, which dealt a crushing blow to popular belief in Israel's strength and preparedness in the face of its Arab adversaries. The result was a loss of confidence in the political and national security elite.

One of the most striking political development in the 1970s was the ascendance of a new right-wing counterelite in May 1977. An upset victory in the ninth parliamentary elections, called an "earthquake" by some, brought Begin's center-right Likud to power, ending Labor's half a century of political dominance. The new political elite won primarily because of the defection of former Labor leaders and previous Labor voters to the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC), which had been founded in 1976 by Yigal Yadin and several other groups. Despite the subsequent collapse of the DMC and the defection of moderates from the Likud-led cabinet--for example, former Minister of Defense Ezer Weizman formed his own list Yahad (Together) in 1981 and Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Dayan created Telem--Likud's success in the tenth parliamentary elections of 1981 resulted from its continued ability to present itself as a viable governing group and a party dedicated to ultranationalism and territorial expansionism.

In the November 1988 elections, Likud lost one Knesset seat. Nevertheless, observers believed that demographic indicators favored continued support for Likud and its right-wing allies among young people and Orientals. The most prominent leaders of Likud in 1988, as in previous years, were members of its Herut faction. They included Prime Minister Shamir; Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Arens, a likely successor to Shamir as leader of Herut; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Housing David Levi, the chief Sephardic political figure; Minister of Commerce and Industry Ariel Sharon; and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1989 the Likud wins a stirring victory in the municipal elections. The mass aliyah of Soviet Jews begins, and the Likud government focuses on the aliyah absorption process. In 1990 the national unity government fell due to the "illegal practice" of the Labor party, and the Likud established a narrow government, led by Shamir. In the 1991 Gulf War: the Likud government held back Iraqi missile shooting on Israel and earned international sympathy. The Likud government initiated and implemented the full operation of the aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel. On October 31, 1991, the Madrid Conference took place. For the first time in 43 years, direct negotiations took place between Israel and Arab states. At the head of the Israeli delegation, stood prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.

On March 9th, 1992 Menachem Begin, former prime minister and minister of security passes away. The Likud lost in the general elections and stood as the opposition to the Labor party. Yitzhak Shamir left the Likud leadership and continued to serve as Knesset member until 1996.

In 1993 Benjamin Netanyahu was chosen to lead the Likud party, after he won in the primaries for the leadership of the movement and received more than 52 percent of the votes. The Likud won a striking victory in the municipal elections in the majority of cities in Israel. Ehud Olmert was elected as mayor of Jerusalem. In 1994 Benjamin Netanyahu led comprehensive reform in the Likud party, including many structural changes that made the party more efficient and improves its financial situation. The Likud completely erased its debts, totaling 70 million shekels. Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Likud leader to visit Jordan after accepting King Hussein and Prince Hassan's invitation to meet in their palace.

The Likud Tzomet and Gesher establish a joint electoral list for the 1996 general elections. In the general elections of 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected to lead as the ninth prime minister of Israel, the first prime minister to be elected in a direct election. The Likud government carried out dramatic changes in all areas of the government. Radical change in the administration of negotiations with the Palestinians took place; Israel demanded from the outset reciprocity in the fulfillment of political agreements. In the economy, Netanyahu accomplished massive privatization of government businesses, a significant decrease of government deficit, a reduction in inflation by 4%, the lowest level in 30 years, reform in the Israeli capital wealth market, and the reversal of the shekel to a convertible currency.

On January 1997, the Likud government signed the Hebron Agreement, calling for the redeployment of the Israeli military forces in Hebron. Massive privation of the markets continued. The Likud government began the revolution of telecommunications in Israel and developed the international telecommunications market. The economic revolution -lowers inflation to a single-digit level, similar to Europe and the United States.

In April 1998 the Likud government brought about reform in the capital market, liberalization of the foreign currency market, and the shekel becomes a convertible currency in world markets. In the United States, the Wye Agreement was signed. The Likud government demanded reciprocity in the fulfillment of responsibilities outlined in past agreements with the Palestinians. The communications revolution continued, with the privatization of Bezek, a third cellular operator, and satelllite transmission. The government also decided to privatize El Al Airlines. By the end of the year, 10,000 computers were distributed to children throughout the country within the framework of the "A Computer for Every Child" project.

In the course of the 1999 election for the Fifteenth Knesset, Likud's platform stated that "The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.... The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel's existence, security and national needs.... Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem, including the plan to divide the city presented to the Knesset by the Arab factions and supported by many members of Labor and Meretz. The government firmly rejects attempts of various sources in the world, some anti-Semitic in origin, to question Jerusalem's status as Israel's capital, and the 3,000-year-old special connection between the Jewish people and its capital.... The Jordan Valley and the territories that dominate it shall be under Israeli sovereignty. The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel."

On 17 May 1999 Ehud Barak was elected as prime minister of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu left his position as Likud party leader. The Likud party became the opposition.

On September 2nd, 1999 Ariel Sharon won in the primaries for the leadership of the Likud. On 31 July 2000 the Likud candidate, Moshe Katsav, was elected as Israel's president. On February 6th, due to the failure of the Barak government general elections take place for a new prime minister. Likud candidate, Ariel Sharon, is elected as prime minister with a majority of 63 percent. In April 2002, due to the series of severe terrorist attacks by the Palestinians, the government instructs the military on the development of the security barrier, in order to prevent further terrorist attacks.

On 28 January 2003 the Likud won 38 seats in the 16th Knesset elections. After the elections, the political party "Israel be'Aliyah" (Israel in Ascent) which won two seats in the Knesset, merged with the Likud party. On May 3rd, the Knesset accepted Benjamin Netanyahu's, minister of finance, plan for the "recovery of the Israeli economy". In 2004 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon disseminated the disengagement plan from the Gaza and northern Samaria regions and ignited a political storm. Following this crisis, Sharon suggests to conduct a survey on the party members' attitudes toward the plan for its approval. On May 2nd Likud party members voted against Sharon's plan (59% versus 41%). On August 7th, 2005 minister of finance Benjamin Netanyahu resigned from government in protest of the disengagement plan. On August 17th the evacuation of Jews from Gaza began in Gush Katif, according to Sharon's plan.

On November 21st Likud leader Ariel Sharon announced he was leaving the Likud party with a group of Knesset members to establish a new party, named "Kadima". On December 19th in the elections for the leadership of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu won by 44%. On January 4th, 2006 prime minister Ariel Sharon was hospitalized in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. Ehud Olmert filled his place. In the March 28th, general elections, the Likud party won 12 seats. Benjamin Netanyahu was head of the opposition. On July 12, on the northern border, soldiers on reserve duty, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped and the cities of the north are destroyed by Hezbollah missiles. The Likud leadership supported the activities of the military and the objectives of the government. During the war against Hezbollah, Netanyahu set out on an international awareness campaign.

In October 2008, President Peres asked deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni to form a new government. When Livni was unable to secure a governing majority, President Peres called for new elections to occur in February 2009. In the 2009 campaign, Likud stated that "Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons must be the first priority of the next government of Israel, whether this involves rallying world public opinion to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran or preparing for an appropriate military response should all other efforts fail.

"The 4000 rockets fired at the Galilee and Northern Israel during the Second Lebanon War, and the 4000 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza have proven to many people in Israel that the warnings issued by the Likud and its leader against unilateral withdrawals were not empty. Today, after the Disengagement, Hizbullah holds new and more dangerous weapons than it ever possessed. While there is a cease-fire in Gaza, Hamas continues to bring in tremendous quantities of munitions in preparation for the next round of terror. In the final analysis, these withdrawals and the Disengagement have turned an already complicated situation into one that is even more complex and perilous. There cannot be any unilateral withdrawals in the future.

"The current peace negotiations, initiated at Annapolis, with their focus on reaching a final status agreement immediately, are misguided. ... There is no evidence that the Palestinians will accept even the minimal demands that any responsible Israeli leader will make. ... Israel should be focusing its efforts instead on helping Abu Mazen and Fayad improve the day-to-day lives of Palestinians. In particular, we should be trying to help them rapidly develop their economy. While this will not resolve the conflict, it can create an environment in which negotiations would have a better chance of succeeding.

"When the times comes for a final-settlement negotiation, the Likud will draw the line in a clear-cut way ... A Likud-headed government will not allow thousands, certainly not millions, of Palestinian refugees to enter Israel. Israel will not take any moral responsibility for those refugees... The government headed by the Likud will keep Jerusalem the unified capital of Israel under Israeli sovereignty... The worst action that can be taken for peace is dividing Jerusalem."

Even though Kadima, led by Tzippi Livni won more seats than any other single party, right-of-center parties, both religious and secular, had the largest overall gains in the new Knesset. Subsequently, President Peres asked Likud-leader Netanyahu to form a government. Netanyahu was sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time on March 31, 2009.

Its ruling coalition largely shielded Israel's economy from the global financial crisis. It accepts the idea of a Palestinian state. It insists on an Israeli right to develop Jewish settlements on occupied land claimed by Palestinians. It refuses to rule out a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites if Tehran produces weapons-grade uranium.

In the January 2013 election, right-wing parties had a narrow majority in the Knesset with 61-62 seats against 58-59 for the center-left. With this outcome, the 63-year-old Israeli leader secured a third term in the office and formed a coalition-based government dominated by hardliners. The alliance between Netanyahu's center-right Likud Party and the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu of former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman won 31 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, 11 fewer than they had after the 2009 elections, but the most of any bloc.

The right-wing party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been in power since 2009. The party emphasizes security issues as its top agenda. Likud has a hardline stance on Iran’s nuclear program and the Palestinians. Netanyahu is against a two-state solution and wants to continue with settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Under the government of Netanyahu, Israel’s relations with the United States, its most important ally, have been tense due to policy differences over Iran’s nuclear program, the stalled negotiations with the Palestinians and Netanyahu’s bad personal chemistry with US President Barack Obama. Likud has been criticized for a lack of agenda on socio-economic issues. Under the reign of Likud, Israelis complained about high living costs and housing crisis.

Polls showed that Likud was expected to win 21 seats at best in 2015, losing at least four seats to the Zionist Union. Netanyahu could have lost the election, as he seemed to have fallen out of favor in Israel. The popular mood among Israelis was described as a “Bibi-fatigue”, who were more concerned about the economy and housing cost rather than Netanyahu’s fear-mongering about Iran.

Likud led the race in all the big cities apart from Tel Aviv and Haifa.

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Page last modified: 20-03-2015 19:07:42 ZULU