Center Party

   An ideologically centrist political party formed in late 1998 to contest the 17 May 1999 election (see KNESSET ELECTIONS) to the 15th Knesset. Its founders were former Likud members of the Knesset and cabinet ministers Dan Meridor, Ronnie Milo, and Yitzhak Mordechai and former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. In seeking to create a third political constituency, the party's founders were responding to strong popular support for a political party that would occupy the ideological middle ground between the Likud and Israel Labor parties and their respective alliance partners. On foreign and security policy, the Center Party platform advocated "examining Palestinian interests, including their aspiration for a state, in the framework of [final status] negotiations, while maintaining [Israel's] vital interests." With regard to relations with Syria and Lebanon, it envisioned a "new strategic situation in the north with territorial compromise on the Golan Heights." Its domestic policy platform promised increased national unity based on a more equitable distribution of resources to all segments of Israeli society; efforts to improve the country's educational system; the promulgation of a formal, written constitution; and an end to "religious coercion" practiced by the ultra-Orthodox political parties.
   The Center Party selected as its leader the former defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai, who also was its candidate for prime minister until the eve of the 17 May 1999 elections, when he withdrew and threw his support to One Israel candidate Ehud Barak. The party won six seats in the 15th Knesset and joined the governing coalition announced by Barak on 6 July 1999, with Mordechai as transportation minister and Lipkin-Shahak as minister of tourism. The party dissolved in 2001 during the 15th Knesset, with its key actors either returning to their roots in the Likud Party or withdrawing from party politics.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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