Leader Benjamin Netanyahu Founded 1973 (alliance)
1988 (unified party)
Headquarters Metzudat Ze'ev
38 King George Street
Tel Aviv, Israel
Ideology Liberal conservatism,
Political position Center-right Knesset Election symbol מחל Website www.likud.org.il Politics of Israel
Likud (Hebrew: הַלִּכּוּד HaLikud, lit. The Consolidation) is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had lost power. However, after ruling the country for most of the 1980s, the party lost the Knesset election in 1992. Nevertheless, Likud's candidate Benjamin Netanyahu did win the vote for Prime Minister in 1996 and was given the task to form a government after the 2009 elections. After a convincing win in the 2003 elections, Likud saw a major split in 2005, when Likud leader Ariel Sharon left the party to form the new Kadima party. This resulted in Likud slumping to fourth place in 2006 elections. Following the 2009 elections, the party appears to have mostly recovered from its loss, and now leads the Israeli government under Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Formation and Begin years
The Likud was formed by an alliance of several right wing parties prior to the 1973 elections; Herut and the Liberal Party had been allied since 1965, and were joined by the Free Centre, the National List and the Movement for Greater Israel. It was given the name Likud, meaning "Consolidation", as it represented the consolidation of the right-wing in Israel. It worked as a coalition of its factions led by Menachem Begin's Herut until 1988 when the factions formally dissolved and Likud became a unitary political party. From its establishment in 1973, Likud enjoyed great support from blue-collar Sephardim who felt discriminated against by the ruling Alignment.
The first Likud prime minister was Menachem Begin, who had led the party to victory in the 1977 elections, the first time the left-wing had lost power in Israel's political history. A former leader of the hard-line paramilitary Irgun, Begin helped initiate the peace process with Egypt, which resulted in the Camp David Accords and the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.
Shamir, Netanyahu first term, and Sharon
The second premier was Yitzhak Shamir, who first became PM in October 1983 following Begin's resignation. Shamir, a former commander of the Lehi underground, was widely seen as a hard-liner with an ideological commitment both to the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the growth of which he encouraged, and to the idea of aliyah, facilitating the mass immigration of Jews to Israel from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union.
The third Likud premier was Benjamin Netanyahu, elected in May 1996, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Netanyahu proved to be less hard-line in practice than he made himself out to be rhetorically, and felt pressured by the United States and others to enter negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and Yasser Arafat, despite his harsh criticism of the Oslo accords and hawkish stance in comparison to Labour.
In 1998, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to cede territory in the Wye River Memorandum. While accepted by many in the Likud, some Likud MKs, led by Benny Begin (Menachem Begin's son), Michael Kleiner and David Re'em, broke away and formed a new party, named Herut – The National Movement, in protest. Yitzhak Shamir (who had expressed harsh disappointment in Netanyahu's leadership), gave the new party his support. Less than a year afterward, Netanyahu's coalition collapsed, resulting in the 1999 election and Labour's Ehud Barak winning the premiership on a platform of immediate settlement of final status issues. Likud spent 1999-2001 on the opposition benches.
Barak's "all-or-nothing" strategy failed, however, and new elections were called for March 2001. Surprisingly, Netanyahu declined to be the Likud candidate for Prime Minister, meaning that the fourth Likud premier would be Ariel Sharon. Sharon, unlike past Likud leaders, had been raised in a Labour Zionist environment and had long been seen as something of a maverick. In the face of the Second Intifada, Sharon pursued a varied set of policies, many of which were controversial even within the Likud. The final split came when Sharon announced his policy of unilateral disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank; the idea proved so divisive both on the Likud and the opposition Labour benches that Sharon announced the formation of a new party, Kadima, from the ranks of both Likud and Labour supporters of unilateral disengagement.
Ariel Sharon's perceived leftward shift to the political center, especially in his execution of the Disengagement Plan, alienated him from some Likud supporters and fragmented the party. He faced several serious challenges to his authority shortly before his departure. The first was in March 2005, when he and Netanyahu proposed a budget plan which met fierce opposition, though it was eventually approved. The second was in September 2005, when Sharon's critics in Likud forced a vote on a proposal for an early leadership election, which was defeated by 52% to 48%. In October, Sharon's opponents within the Likud Knesset faction joined with the opposition to prevent the appointment of two of his associates to the Cabinet, demonstrating that Sharon had effectively lost control of the Knesset and that the 2006 budget was unlikely to pass.
The next month, Labor announced its withdrawal from Sharon's governing coalition following its election of the left wing Amir Peretz as leader. On 21 November 2005, Sharon announced he would be leaving Likud and forming a new centrist party, Kadima, and that elections would take place in early 2006. As of 21 November seven candidates had declared themselves as contenders to replace Sharon as leader: Netanyahu, Uzi Landau, Shaul Mofaz, Yisrael Katz, Silvan Shalom and Moshe Feiglin. Landau and Mofaz later withdrew, the former in favour of Netanyahu and the latter to join Kadima.
Netanyahu second term
Netanyahu went on to win the Likud Party Chairman elections in December, obtaining 44.4% of the vote. Shalom came in a second with 33%, leading Netanyahu to guarantee him second place on the party's list of Knesset candidates. Shalom's perceived moderation on social and foreign-policy issues were considered to be an electoral asset. Observers noted that voter turnout in the elections was particularly low in comparison with past primaries, with less than 40 percent of the 128,000 party members casting ballots. There was much media focus on "far-right" candidate Moshe Feiglin achieving 12.4% of votes, who is the only candidate who aims to see Likud actually pursue the policies presented in its own official charter.
The founding of Kadima was a major challenge to the Likud's generation-long status as one of Israel's two major parties. Sharon's perceived centrist policies have drawn considerable popular support as reflected by public opinion polls. The Likud is now led by figures who oppose further unilateral evacuations, and its standing in the polls has suffered. After the founding of Kadima, Likud came to be seen as having more of a right-wing tendency than a moderate centre-right one. However there exist several parties in the knesset which are more right wing than the post-Ariel Sharon Likud.
Prior to the 2006 election the party's Central Committee relinquished control of selecting the Knesset list to the 'rank and file' members at Netanyahu's behest. The aim was to improve the party's reputation, as the central committee had gained a reputation for corruption.
In the election, the Likud vote collapsed in the face of the Kadima split. Other right-wing nationalist parties such as Yisrael Beiteinu gained votes, with Likud coming only fourth place in the popular vote, edging out Yisrael Beiteinu by only 116 votes. With only twelve seats, Likud was tied with the Shas for the status of third-largest party.
In the 2009 Israeli legislative election, Likud won 27 seats, a close second place finish to Kadima's 28 seats, and leading the other parties. After more than a month of coalition negotiations, Benjamin Netanyahu was able to form a government and become Prime Minister.
- The 1999 Likud charter emphasizes the right of settlement.
"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."
Similarly, they claim the Jordan River as the permanent eastern border to Israel and it also claims Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.
"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 'Peace & Security' chapter of the 1999 Likud Party platform rejects a Palestinian state.
"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."
With Likud back in power, starting in 2009, Israeli foreign policy is still under review. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in his "National Security" platform, neither endorsed nor ruled out the idea of a Palestinian state. "Netanyahu has hinted that he does not oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, but aides say he must move cautiously because his religious-nationalist coalition partners refuse to give away land."
In June 2009 Netanyahu outlined his conditions for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, including the state being demilitarized, without an army or control of their airspace.
The Likud party claims to support a free market capitalist and liberal agenda, though in practice it has mostly adopted mixed economic policies. Under the guidance of Finance minister and current party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud pushed through legislation reducing value added tax (VAT), income and corporate taxes significantly, as well as customs duty. Likewise, it has instituted free trade (especially with the European Union and the United States) and dismantled certain monopolies (Bezeq and the sea ports). Additionally, it has privatized numerous government-owned companies, e.g. El Al and Bank Leumi, and has moved to privatize land in Israel, which until now has been held symbolically by the state in the name of the Jewish people. Netanyahu was the most ardent free-market Israeli finance minister to-date. He argued that Israel's largest labor union, the Histadrut, has so much power as to be capable of paralyzing the Israeli economy, and claimed that the main causes of unemployment are laziness and excessive benefits to the unemployed." Under Netanyahu, Likud has and is likely to maintain a comparatively fiscally conservative economic stance, although it might be considered centrist or even progressive from a world view. However, the party's economic policies vary widely among members, with some Likud MKs supporting leftist economic positions that are more in line with popular preferences.
Likud has in the past espoused hawkish policies towards the Palestinians, including opposition to Palestinian statehood and support of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, it has also been the party which carried out the first peace agreements with Arab states. For instance, in 1979, Likud Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, signed the Camp David Accords with Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, which returned the Sinai Peninsula (occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967) to Egypt in return for peace between the two countries. Yitzhak Shamir was the first Israeli Prime Minister to meet Palestinian leaders at the Madrid Conference following the Persian Gulf War in 1991. However, Shamir refused to concede the idea of a Palestinian state, and as a result was blamed by some (including United States Secretary of State James Baker) for the failure of the summit. Later, as Prime Minister, Netanyahu restated Likud's position of opposing Palestinian statehood, which after the Oslo Accords was largely accepted by the opposition Labor Party, even though the shape of any such state was not clear.
In 2002, during the Second Intifada, Israel's Likud-led government reoccupied Palestinian towns and refugee camps in the West Bank. In 2005 Ariel Sharon defied the recent tendencies of Likud and abandoned the policy of seeking to settle in the West Bank and Gaza. Though re-elected Prime Minister on a platform of no unilateral withdrawals, Sharon carried out the Israeli unilateral disengagement plan, withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and demolishing the Israeli settlements there, as well as four settlements in the northern West Bank. Though losing a referendum among Likud registered voters, Sharon achieved government approval of this policy by firing most of the cabinet members who opposed the plan before the vote.
Sharon and the faction who supported his disengagement proposals left the Likud party after the disengagement and created the new Kadima party. This new party supported unilateral disengagement from most of the West Bank and the fixing of borders by the Israeli West Bank barrier. The basic premise of the policy was that the Israelis have no viable negotiating partner on the Palestinian side, and since they cannot remain in indefinite occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel should unilaterally withdraw.
Netanyahu, who was elected as the new leader of Likud after Kadima's creation, and Silvan Shalom, the runner-up, both supported the disengagement plan, however Netanyahu resigned his ministerial post before the plan was executed. Most current Likud members support the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and oppose Palestinian statehood and the disengagement from Gaza.
Likud emphasizes such Israeli nationalist themes as the use of the Israeli flag and the victory in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Likud publicly endorses press freedom and promotion of private sector media, which has grown markedly under governments Likud has led. A Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon, however, closed the popular right-wing pirate radio station Arutz 7 ("Channel 7"). Arutz 7 was popular with the Jewish settler movement and often criticised the government from a right-wing perspective.
Historically, the Likud and its pre-1948 predecessor, the Revisionist movement advocated secular nationalism. However, the Likud's first Prime Minister and long-time leader Menahem Begin, though secular himself, cultivated a warm attitude to Jewish tradition and appreciation for traditionally religious Jews—especially from North Africa and the Middle East. This segment of the Israeli population first brought the Likud to power in 1977. Many Orthodox Israelis find the Likud a more congenial party than any other mainstream party.
- Menachem Begin, 1973–1983
- Yitzhak Shamir, 1983–1993
- Benjamin Netanyahu, 1993–1999
- Ariel Sharon, 1999–2005
- Benjamin Netanyahu, since 2005
Likud currently has 27 Knesset members. They are listed below in the order that they appeared on the party's list for the 2009 elections.
Other prominent members
Past figures (deceased, retired or left Likud):
- Menachem Begin (1913–1992), former Prime Minister
- Geula Cohen
- Moshe Katsav, former President of Israel
- Michael Kleiner
- Uzi Landau
- Moshe Arens
- Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister and current Leader of the Opposition
- Shaul Mofaz, former Chief of the Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces and Minister of Transportation
- Ehud Olmert, former Mayor of Jerusalem and former Prime Minister of Israel
- Moshe Shamir (1921–2004), author and playwright
- Yitzhak Shamir, former Prime Minister of Israel
- Natan Sharansky, former Russian dissident
- Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister and Likud party leader (September 1999 - November 2005) now in a coma.
- Ezer Weizman (1924–2005), former President of Israel
- ^ Joel Greenberg (22 November 1998). "The World: Pursuing Peace; Netanyahu and His Party Turn Away from 'Greater Israel'". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B01E0D81330F931A15752C1A96E958260&scp=4&sq=ariel+sharon&st=nyt.
- ^ Ethan Bronner (20 February 2009). "Netanyahu, Once Hawkish, Now Touts Pragmatism". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/21/world/middleeast/21netanyahu.html?_r=1&ref=world.
- ^ Israel - The Likud Bloc Library of Congress Country Studies
- ^ "Tzipi Livni's snap election gambit". BBC News. 2008-10-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7691761.stm. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
- ^ Likud Ynetnews
- ^ David Makovsky (3 February 2009). "PolicyWatch #1469: Another Israeli Election Down to the Wire". Washington Institute for Near East Policy. http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=3006.
- ^ "Likudnik". Milon Morfix. http://milon.morfix.co.il/Default.aspx?q=%D7%9C%D6%B4%D7%9B%D6%BC%D7%95%D6%BC%D7%93%D6%B0%D7%A0%D6%B4%D7%99%D7%A7. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
- ^ "Likud". Knesset.gov.il. http://www.knesset.gov.il/faction/eng/FactionPage_eng.asp?PG=13. Retrieved 2011-02-12.
- ^ Central committee strips itself of power The Jerusalem Post, 1 March 2006
- ^ Israeli media vents fury at Likud BBC News, 17 December 2002
- ^ Young Israelis of the year: MK Tzipi Hotovely, 30: Trying to change the world, Jpost, Magazine, 09/17/2009 14:49
- ^ a b "Likud - Platform". knesset.gov.il. http://www.knesset.gov.il/elections/knesset15/elikud_m.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
- ^ Likud Charter Does Not Recognize Palestine Palestine Chronicle Retrieved 28 May 2011
- ^ "Benjamin Netanyahu - National Security". En.netanyahu.org.il. http://en.netanyahu.org.il/Themes-of/security/. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
- ^ McGirk, Tim (18 May 2009). "Israel's Netanyahu: Taking a Turn Toward Pragmatism?". Time. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1896731,00.html?iid=tsmodule. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
- ^ Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Says Two-State Solution Possible, With Conditions - http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7838189&page=1
- ^ MK Regev calls for 80% tax on top earners - Globes - 5 May 2010
- Official website (Hebrew)
- Likud on Facebook
- Likud Members News website (Hebrew)
- Likud Nederland (Dutch) (English)
- Likud Knesset website
- Likud - fact file at Ynetnews
Parliamentary political parties in Israel
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