[lee-kood, lee-kood]

Likud (ליכוד, lit. Consolidation) is the major centre-right political party in Israel. Founded in 1973 as an alliance of 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 has won only one Knesset election since 1992, though its candidate, Binyamin Netanyahu, did win the popular vote for Prime Minister in 1996. After a big win in the 2003 elections, a major split in 2005 saw Likud leader Ariel Sharon leave to form the new Kadima party, with Likud slumping to fourth place in elections the following year. The party now leads the opposition in the Knesset.

Ideological positions


The Likud supports free market capitalism and liberalism, though in practice it has mostly adopted moderate economic policies. The Likud, under the guidance of Finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, 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 U.S.) and dismantled certain monopolies (Bezeq and the sea ports). Additionally, it has managed to privatize numerous government owned companies (El Al and Bank Leumi). The last Likud Finance minister, now the party leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, was the most ardent free-market Israeli Finance minister to-date, argues that Israel's largest labor union, the Histadrut, has so much power as to be capable of paralyzing the Israeli economy. He also claims 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 right-wing conservative economic stance, although it might be considered centrist or even progressive from a world view.

Arab-related issues

The Likud charter calls for the annexation and settlement of the entire Land of Israel, which comprises the current territory of the State of Israel, as well as West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the whole of Jerusalem.

Likud has in the past espoused hawkish policies towards the Palestinians, including opposition to Palestinian statehood and support of the Jewish settlers 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 also granted some legitimacy to the Palestinians by meeting them at the ill-fated 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 U.S. Secretary of State James Baker) for the failure of the summit. Later, as Prime Minister, Binyamin 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.

Following conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in 2002, Israel's Likud-led government reoccupied Arab towns and refugee camps in West Bank, a position that remains unchanged today. In 2005 Ariel Sharon defied the recent tendencies of Likud and abandoned the "Greater Israel" policy of seeking to settle 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. Whilst an overwhelming majority of the Likud's membership opposed this policy, Sharon achieved the approval of this policy through the necessary government channels by firing all cabinet members who opposed the plan before the vote in order to assure a needed majority, and by submitting his plan to what Sharon called a "binding" vote in his party which he lost and yet later disregarded.

Ariel Sharon and the faction who supported his "Disengagement" proposals left the Likud party after the Disengagement and joined the new Kadima party which was itself founded by former Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This new party supports unilateral disengagement from most of the West Bank and the fixing of borders by the separation barrier. The basic premise of the policy is the view 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. If pursued, this further Disengagement will, according to many, ultimately mean allowing the creation a Palestinian state although smaller than most Palestinians are likely to accept. It is not known why Mr. Sharon did not create this new party before he carried out the disengagement plan instead of after it.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the new rightist leader of Likud, and Silvan Shalom, the party's #2 ranking member, both supported (against the Likud charter) the disengagement plan, however Netanyahu resigned his ministerial post before the plan was executed. Most current Likud members support the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and oppose Arab statehood and the disengagement from Gaza.


The Likud promotes a revival of Jewish-oriented culture, in keeping with the principles of revisionist zionism.

The Likud emphasize such nationalist themes as the flag and the victory in Israel's 1948 war with neighbouring Arab states. The Likud advocates teaching values in childhood education. The Likud 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 settlement movement and often criticised the government from a right-wing perspective. However, the Likud is inclined towards the Torah and expresses support for it within the context of civil Judaism, as a result of its Irgun past, which aligned itself according to the word of the Tanakh.


Formation and the Menachem Begin years

The Likud was formed by a merger of several right wing parties prior to the 1973 elections, including Gahal, the Free Centre, the National List and the Movement for Greater Israel. The Likud 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.

Yitzhak Shamir, Netanyahu's first term and Ariel 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, served as a strong Israeli leader seen as more hard-line than Begin. Under his leadership, the Jews of Russia and Ethiopia were brought on aliyah to Israel and settlements flourished throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The third Likud premier was Binyamin Netanyahu, elected in May 1996, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Netanyahu proved far less ideological than Begin and could not stand up to United States' pressure as firmly as Shamir had. Though critical of the Oslo accords and more hawkish than Rabin and Peres' Labour governments, like his rivals in the Labor party, Netanyahu negotiated with Yasser Arafat.

The fourth Likud premier was Ariel Sharon, elected March 2001, who resigned from both the Likud and as Prime Minister on 21 November 2005. Sharon served as defense minister during Operation Peace for the Galilee (1982), and was found by the Kahan Commission to be indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila Massacre (16 September-18 September, 1982). Sharon was forced to resign as defense minister after the Kahan Commission issued its report, but he was allowed to remain in Begin's cabinet.

In 1998, after Binyamin Netanyahu ceded territory to the Palestinians in the Wye accords, several MKs split off from the Likud in an act of protest. Led by Benny Begin (Menachem Begin's son), Michael Kleiner and David Re'em, a new party named Herut – The National Movement was formed, gaining support from former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (who had expressed harsh disappointment in Netanyahu's leadership).

In 2001, following Palestinian attacks during the al-Aqsa Intifada, Ehud Barak lost the elections to Likud leader Ariel Sharon. At the 2003 elections the Likud doubled its power, rising to 40 mandates (out of 120) and securing power jobs in the government, ministries, public institutes and state bureaucracy.

Sharon's entire tenure was marked by the Al-Aqsa Intifada and he ventured further away from the Likud's traditional values and association with the settler movement. In the summer of 2005, Sharon uprooted thousands of Jewish settlers from their homes in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank in order to withdraw from the territory.

Kadima split

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.

Under Netanyahu again

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 elections 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 elections, 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 is currently tied with the Shas for the status of third-largest party.

Likud is currently Israel's main opposition party with Binyamin Netanyahu Israel's Opposition Leader.


Current MKs

Other prominent members


Past figures (deceased, retired or left Likud):

See also


External links

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