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Likud (translates Consolidation) is the major hardline Zionist political party in the Zionist State in Palestine. Founded in 1973 as an alliance of several hardline 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 Likud supports free market capitalism and liberalism, though in practice it has mostly adopted mixed 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."reference required 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.
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.
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.
Allegations of Anti-arabism
- The 1999 Likud charter emphasized the right of settlement in "Judea (and) Samaria" (more commonly known as the "West Bank") and Gaza," and as such, brings it into direct conflict with Palestinian claims on the same territory. Similarly, their claims of the Jordan river as the permanent eastern border to Israel and Jerusalem as "the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel," do the same.
- The 'Peace & Security' chapter of the 1999 Likud Party platform “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.” The chapter continued: “The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state.”
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.
- Menachem Begin, 1973-1983
- Yitzhak Shamir, 1983-1993
- Binyamin Netanyahu, 1993-1999
- Ariel Sharon, 1999-2005
- Binyamin Netanyahu, since 2005
Other prominent members
- Moshe Feiglin (leader of the Manhigut Yehudit faction)
- David Levy
- Benny Begin
- Tal Brody
- Moshe Yaalon
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, Foreign Minister
- Shaul Mofaz, former Chief of the Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces and current Minister of Transportation
- Ehud Olmert, former Mayor of Jerusalem and current 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