- Hebrew for bridge; a breakaway political party from Likud headed by David Levy. Levy announced the formation of the party on 20 February 1996, when he quit Likud, claiming that the party leadership was biased against Moroccans and other Sephardic Jews (see ORIENTAL JEWS). Gesher's declared purpose was to serve as a bridge in the social and political fields, and Levy announced that the party would be a partner to any government that accepted Gesher's principles. It was also generally understood that the departure from Likud of the Levy faction was related to his personal rivalry with Benjamin Netanyahu (who defeated Levy in a bitter 1993 race to succeed Yitzhak Shamir as Likud Party leader). In addition to preparing to run a separate Gesher list for the 1996 Knesset election, Levy announced his candidacy for prime minister, thereby threatening to split the center-right vote. However, in mid-March 1996, Levy agreed to withdraw his candidacy and to have Gesher join the Likud and Tsomet parties in a unified "national camp" list to contest the 1996 Knesset election. Gesher participated in the coalition government established by Netanyahu in June 1996, with Levy serving as both foreign minister and deputy prime minister. However, the party left the coalition when Levy quit in January in a dispute with Netanyahu over proposed cuts to social spending and over the management of the Palestinian peace negotiations. In the spring of 1999, Gesher agreed to join with the Israel Labor Party and Meimad to form the One Israel Movement that won 26 seats in the election to the 15th Knesset that occurred on 17 May and that dominated the governing coalition formed by Ehud Barak on 6 July 1999, with Levy once again serving as foreign minister and deputy prime minister. Levy quit the Barak government to protest the Camp David offer and returned to the ranks of the Likud Party, thereby bringing about an end to Gesher.
Historical Dictionary of Israel. Bernard Reich David H. Goldberg. Edited by Jon Woronoff..
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