Likud (Union) Party

   Likud was established in 1973, and the alliance crystallized at the time of the 1977 election. It consisted of the Gahal alliance (Herut and the Liberals); the La'am alliance (the State List and the Free Center); Ahdut (a one-man faction in the Knesset); and Shlomzion, Ariel Sharon's former party.
   From the first Knesset, Likud and its predecessors had been led by Menachem Begin. With Begin's retirement in 1983, leadership passed to Yitzhak Shamir, who in turn was succeeded by Benjamin Netanyahu in 1993. Netanyahu resigned as party leader after his defeat by Labor leader Ehud Barak on 17 May 1999 in an election in which Likud won only 19 seats in the 15th Knesset. Netanyahu was replaced by Ariel Sharon, who defeated Barak in the special election for prime minister in February 2001 and then led Likud to a decisive victory in the election to the 16th Knesset in 2003, taking 40 seats, compared to only 19 for Labor. In November 2005, Sharon caused a political "earthquake" by quitting Likud and forming a new political party called Kadima (Forward). In December 2005, Netanyahu was elected to again lead Likud.
   Likud came to power in Israel in 1977, ousting the Israel Labor Party-led government for the first time since Israel became independent. Although it retained its government position after the 1981 elections, its majority in the Knesset seldom exceeded two or three votes. In 1984, it lost its majority and joined with the Labor Alignment to form a Government of National Unity, in which it shared power and ministerial positions. In the 1988 Knesset election, it again emerged as the dominant party but without a majority. A Likud-dominated government with Shamir as prime minister and with Labor as the junior partner was formed in December 1988. In 1992, Likud, under the leadership of Shamir, was narrowly defeated by a revitalized Labor Party headed by Yitzhak Rabin.
   Likud is right of center, strongly nationalist, and assertive in foreign policy. Its 2003 domestic electoral policy platform emphasized continued efforts to sustain the growth of the Israeli economy, containment of the country's rate of inflation, progress in the areas of privatization of state-owned businesses and foreign investment, and continued support and encouragement of the country's high-tech industrial sector. With regard to foreign and security policy, Likud traditionally served as the magnet for secular-nationalist voters opposed to territorial compromise. However, since Begin's historic return of the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace with Egypt, Likud policy has emphasized the principle of "Security with Peace." The party presents itself as prepared to undertake selective territorial compromise in the pursuit of peace, as long as Israel's fundamental security interests are guaranteed and the Jewish people's historical attachments to Eretz Israel are recognized and respected.
   For example, the party's 2003 policy platform conditioned the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians on the implementation of a complete and verifiable cease-fire, as well as fundamental reform of the Palestinian Authority. Despite pressure from hawks within his own party, Likud Party leader Sharon refused to rule out the possibility of a future Palestinian state. Rather, he set out the specific conditions that the Palestinians must meet in order to achieve statehood and established "red lines" beyond which his government would not move. The Likud 2003 platform also stipulated that there would be no "re-division" of Jerusalem and no Palestinian refugee "right of return." It is within the context of the principle of "Security with Peace" that Sharon ordered the Israel Defense Forces back into large areas of the West Bank in pursuit of terrorists in April 2002; approved the construction of the security barrier that will, when completed, run the length of the West Bank, separating Israelis from Palestinians; and proposed and implemented the plan for the unilateral disengagement of Israelis—including all settlers—from all of the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank.
   The evacuation of settlers provoked a rebellion against Sharon among Likud members of the Knesset and threatened to divide the party. This rebellion contributed directly to Sharon's decision on 21 November 2005 to bolt the Likud (taking a number of key ministers with him) and establish the new centrist Kadima Party to contest the 28 March 2006 election to the 17th Knesset. On 19 December 2005, Netanyahu was elected to once again lead the Likud Party, taking 44 percent of the vote of party members in a leadership primary. Others contesting for the leadership included the incumbent foreign minister Silvan Shalom (33 percent), leader of Likud's right-wing Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction Moshe Feiglin (12 percent), and agriculture minister Yisrael Katz (9 percent). Under Netanyahu's leadership, Likud won only 12 seats in the March 2006 election to the 17th Knesset.
   Netanyahu's leadership of Likud was overwhelmingly reaffirmed in an 14 August 2007 leadership primary, taking 73 percent of the vote, compared to the 23 percent garnered by Feiglin and the 3.5 percent for a third candidate, Daniel Doron.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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