Likud (Hebrew: הַלִּיכּוּד, translit. HaLikud, lit., The Consolidation), officially the Likud – National Liberal Movement, is a centre-right to right-wing political party in Israel. A secular party, it was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon in an alliance with several right-wing parties. Likud's landslide 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. In addition, it was the first time in Israel that a right-wing party won the plurality of the votes. However, after ruling the country for most of the 1980s, the party lost the Knesset election in 1992. Nevertheless, Likud's candidate Benjamin Netanyahu did win the vote for Prime Minister in 1996 and was given the task of forming a government after the 1996 elections. Netanyahu's government fell apart after a vote of no confidence, which led to elections being called in 1999 and Likud losing power to the One Israel coalition led by Ehud Barak.
|Founded||1973 (alliance) |
1988 (unified party)
|Merger of||Gahal (Herut and Liberal Party), Free Centre, National List and Movement for Greater Israel|
38 King George Street
Tel Aviv, Israel
|Youth wing||Likud Youth|
|LGBT wing||Likud Pride|
|Political position||Centre-right to|
|European affiliation||European Conservatives and Reformists Party (regional partner)|
|International affiliation||International Democrat Union|
("The Likud Jingle")
36 / 120
|Most MKs||48 (1981)|
In 2001, Likud's Ariel Sharon, who replaced Netanyahu following the 1999 election, defeated Barak in an election called by the Prime Minister following his resignation. After the party recorded a convincing win in the 2003 elections, Likud saw a major split in 2005 when Sharon left to form the Kadima party. This resulted in Likud slumping to fourth place in the 2006 elections and losing 28 seats in the Knesset. Following the 2009 elections, Likud was able to gain 15 seats, and, with Netanyahu back in control of the party, formed a coalition with fellow right-wing parties Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas to take control of the government from Kadima, which earned a plurality, but not a majority. Netanyahu has been Prime Minister since and Likud had been the leading vote-getter in each election until April 2019, when Likud tied with Blue and White and September 2019, when Blue and White won one more seat than the Likud.
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Formation and Begin years
The Likud was formed as a secular party by an alliance of several right-wing parties prior to the 1973 elections—Herut, the Liberal Party, the Free Centre, the National List, and the Movement for Greater Israel. Herut had been the nation's largest right-wing party since growing out of the Irgun in 1948. It had already been in coalition with the Liberals since 1965 as Gahal, with Herut as the senior partner. Herut remained the senior partner in the new grouping, which was given the name Likud, meaning "Consolidation", as it represented the consolidation of the Israeli right. It worked as a coalition under Herut's leadership until 1988, when the member parties merged into a single party under the Likud name. From its establishment in 1973, Likud enjoyed great support from blue-collar Sephardim who felt discriminated against by the ruling Alignment.
Likud made a strong showing in its first elections in 1973, reducing the Alignment's lead to 12 seats. The party went on to win the 1977 elections, finishing 11 seats ahead of the Alignment. Begin was able to form a government with the support of the religious parties, consigning the left-wing to opposition for the first time since independence. A former leader of the hard-line paramilitary Irgun, Begin helped initiate the peace process with Egypt, which resulted in the 1978 Camp David Accords and the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty. Likud was reelected with a significantly reduced mandate in 1981.
Likud has long been a loose alliance between politicians committed to different and sometimes opposing policy preferences and ideologies. The 1981 elections highlighted divisions that existed between the populist wing of Likud, headed by David Levy of Herut, and the Liberal wing, who represented a policy agenda of the secular bourgeoisie.
Shamir, Netanyahu's first term, and Sharon
Begin resigned in October 1983 and was succeeded as Likud leader and Prime Minister by Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir, a former commander of the Lehi underground, was widely seen as a hard-liner with an ideological commitment both to the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the growth of which he encouraged, and to the idea of aliyah, facilitating the mass immigration of Jews to Israel from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. Although Shamir lost the 1984 election, the Alignment was unable to form a government on its own. Likud and the Alignment thus formed a national unity government, with Peres as Prime Minister and Shamir as foreign minister. After two years, Peres and Shamir switched posts. This government remained in power through 1990, when the Alignment pulled out and Shamir stitched together a right-wing coalition that held on until its defeat in 1992 by Labor.
Shamir retired shortly after losing the election. His successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, became the third Likud Prime Minister in May 1996, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Netanyahu proved to be less hard-line in practice than he made himself out to be rhetorically, and felt pressured by the United States and others to enter negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and Yasser Arafat, despite his harsh criticism of the Oslo accords and hawkish stance in comparison to Labor.
In 1998, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to cede territory in the Wye River Memorandum. While accepted by many in the Likud, some Likud MKs, led by Benny Begin (Menachem Begin's son), Michael Kleiner and David Re'em, broke away and formed a new party, named Herut – The National Movement, in protest. Yitzhak Shamir (who had expressed harsh disappointment in Netanyahu's leadership), gave the new party his support. Less than a year afterward, Netanyahu's coalition collapsed, resulting in the 1999 election and Labor's Ehud Barak winning the premiership on a platform of immediate settlement of final status issues. Likud spent 1999–2001 on the opposition benches.
Barak's "all-or-nothing" strategy failed, however, and early elections for Prime Minister were called for March 2001. Surprisingly, Netanyahu declined to be the Likud candidate for Prime Minister, meaning that the fourth Likud premier would be Ariel Sharon. Sharon, unlike past Likud leaders, had been raised in a Labor Zionist environment and had long been seen as something of a maverick. In the face of the Second Intifada, Sharon pursued a varied set of policies, many of which were controversial even within the Likud. The final split came when Sharon announced his policy of unilateral disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. The idea proved extremely divisive within the party.
Sharon's perceived 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 that 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. The new party included both Likud and Labor supporters of unilateral disengagement. Sharon also announced 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.
Netanyahu's second term
Netanyahu went on to win the chairmanship 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.
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 even more right-wing than the post-Ariel Sharon Likud.
Prior to the 2006 election, 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 election, 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 was tied with the Shas for the status of third-largest party.
In the 2009 Israeli legislative election, Likud won 27 seats, a close second-place finish to Kadima's 28 seats, and leading the other parties. After more than a month of coalition negotiations, Benjamin Netanyahu was able to form a government and become Prime Minister.
"Pride in the Likud", a political advocacy group of LGBT conservatives affiliated with the party, was founded in 2011. Following the appointment of Amir Ohana as the Likud's first openly gay member in the Knesset, in December 2015, Netanyahu said he was "proud" to welcome him into parliament.
Partnership with Yisrael Beiteinu
On 25 October 2012, Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman announced that their respective political parties, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, would run together on a single ballot in Israel's 2013 parliamentary election. "A joining of forces will give us the strength to defend Israel from military threats, and the strength to spearhead social and economic changes in the country", Netanyahu said. In January 2013, Lieberman said the Yisrael Beitinu merge with the Likud party will end within one month of the election.
The Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu merger led to speculation that Lieberman would eventually seek the leadership of Likud. "Every soldier must strive to be chief of staff, just as every politician wants, eventually, to stand at the top of the system. I'm not obsessed with this, but that is my goal", Lieberman said.
In the 2013 election, the Likud-Yisrael Beiteninu alliance won 31 seats, 20 of which were Likud members. Netanyahu continued as Prime Minister after forming a coalition with Yesh Atid, the Jewish Home and Hatnuah.
The electoral alliance was unpopular among both Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. In November 2013, it was reported that both parties would be holding discussions on whether to end their partnership. According to Haaretz, "the alliance stoked anger among senior Likud politicians, both because of the historic change and the high price the party ostensibly paid...." Efforts by Yisrael Beitenu to formally merge with Likud after the election were rebuffed by Likud activists who worried about the effect an influx of organized new power centers could have on their own influence in the ruling party.
During the course of the April 2019 Israeli legislative election campaign, Likud facilitated the formation of the Union of Right-Wing Parties between the Jewish Home, Tkuma and Otzma Yehudit by providing a slot on its own electoral list to Jewish Home candidate Eli Ben-Dahan. In the aftermath of the election, Kulanu merged into Likud.
During the September 2019 Israeli legislative election campaign, Likud agreed to a deal with Zehut, whereby the latter party would drop out of the election and endorse Likud in exchange for a ministerial post for its leader, Moshe Feiglin, as well as policy concessions.
Likud emphasizes national security policy based on a strong military force when threatened with continued enmity against Israel. It has shown reluctance to negotiate with its neighbors whom it believes continue to seek the destruction of the Jewish state, that based on the principle of the party founder Menachem Begin concerning the preventive policy to any potential attacks on State of Israel. Its suspicion of neighboring Arab nations' intentions, however, has not prevented the party from reaching agreements with the Arabs, such as the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. Likud's willingness to enter mutually accepted agreements with the Arabs over the years is related to the formation of other right-wing parties. Like other right-wing parties in Israel, Likud politicians have sometimes criticized particular Supreme Court decisions, but it remains committed to rule of law principles that it hopes to entrench in a written constitution.
- The 1999 Likud Party platform emphasizes the right of settlement.
"The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting."
Similarly, they claim the Jordan River as the permanent eastern border to Israel and it also claims Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.
- The 'Peace & Security' chapter of the 1999 Likud Party platform rejects a Palestinian state.
"The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration, and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel's existence, security and national needs."
With Likud back in power, starting in 2009, Israeli foreign policy is still under review. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in his "National Security" platform, neither endorsed nor ruled out the idea of a Palestinian state. "Netanyahu has hinted that he does not oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, but aides say he must move cautiously because his religious-nationalist coalition partners refuse to give away land."
On 14 June 2009, Netanyahu delivered a speech at Bar-Ilan University (also known as "Bar-Ilan Speech"), at Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, that was broadcast live in Israel and across parts of the Arab world, on the topic of the Middle East peace process. He endorsed for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with several conditions.
However, on 16 March 2015, Netanyahu stated in the affirmative, that if he were elected, a Palestinian state would not be created. Netanyahu argued, "anyone who goes to create today a Palestinian state and turns over land, is turning over land that will be used as a launching ground for attacks by Islamist extremists against the State of Israel." Some take these statements to mean that Netanyahu and Likud oppose a Palestinian state. After having been criticised by U.S. White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest for the "divisive rhetoric" of his election campaign, on 19 March 2015, Netanyahu retreated to "I don't want a one-state solution. I want a peaceful, sustainable two-state solution. I have not changed my policy."
The Likud Constitution of May 2014 is more vague and ambiguous. Though it contains commitments to the strengthening of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, it does not explicitly rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state.[failed verification][failed verification]
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The Likud party claims to support a free market capitalist and liberal agenda, though, in practice, it has mostly adopted mixed economic policies. Under the guidance of Finance minister and current party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud 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 United States) and dismantled certain monopolies (Bezeq and the seaports). Additionally, it has privatized numerous government-owned companies, e. g., El Al and Bank Leumi, and has moved to privatize land in Israel, which until now has been held symbolically by the state in the name of the Jewish people. Netanyahu was the most ardent free-market Israeli finance minister to date. He argued that Israel's largest labor union, the Histadrut, has so much power as to be capable of paralyzing the Israeli economy, and claimed 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 fiscally conservative economic stance. However, the party's economic policies vary widely among members, with some Likud MKs supporting more leftist economic positions that are more in line with popular preferences.
Likud has historically espoused opposition to Palestinian statehood and support of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, it has also been the party that 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 was the first Israeli Prime Minister to meet Palestinian leaders at the 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 United States Secretary of State James Baker) for the failure of the summit. On 14 June 2009, as Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a speech at Bar-Ilan University in which he endorsed a "Demilitarized Palestinian State", though said that Jerusalem must remain the unified capital of Israel.
In 2002, during the Second Intifada, Israel's Likud-led government reoccupied Palestinian towns and refugee camps in the West Bank. In 2005, Ariel Sharon defied the recent tendencies of Likud and abandoned the policy of seeking to settle in the West Bank and Gaza. Though re-elected Prime Minister on a platform of no unilateral withdrawals, Sharon carried out the Gaza disengagement plan, withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, as well as four settlements in the northern West Bank. Though losing a referendum among Likud registered voters, Sharon achieved government approval of this policy by firing most of the cabinet members who opposed the plan before the vote.
Sharon and the faction who supported his disengagement proposals left the Likud party after the disengagement and created the new Kadima party. This new party supported unilateral disengagement from most of the West Bank and the fixing of borders by the Israeli West Bank barrier. The basic premise of the policy was 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.
Netanyahu, who was elected as the new leader of Likud after Kadima's creation, and Silvan Shalom, the runner-up, both supported the disengagement plan; however, Netanyahu resigned his ministerial post before the plan was executed. Most current Likud members support the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and oppose Palestinian statehood and the disengagement from Gaza.
Although settlement activity has continued under recent Likud governments, much of the activity outside the major settlement blocs has been to accommodate the Jewish Home, a coalition partner; support within Likud to build outside the blocs is not particularly strong.
In the 2019 election, Likud was widely criticized as a "racist party" after scaremongering anti-Arab rhetoric by its members as well as Netanyahu who claimed minority Arabs and Palestinians in Israel as "threats" and "enemies,".
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Likud generally advocates free enterprise and nationalism, but it has sometimes compromised these ideals in practice, especially as its constituency has changed. Its support for populist economic programs are at odds with its free enterprise tradition, but are meant to serve its largely nationalistic, lower-income voters in small towns and urban neighborhoods.
On religion and state, Likud has a moderate stance, and supports the preservation of status quo. With time, the party has played into the traditional sympathies of its voter base, though the origins and ideology of Likud are secular. Religious parties have come to view it as a more comfortable coalition partner than Labor.
Likud promotes a revival of Jewish culture, in keeping with the principles of Revisionist Zionism. Likud emphasizes such Israeli nationalist themes as the use of the Israeli flag and the victory in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. In July 2018, Likud lawmakers backed controversial Nation-State bill into law which declaring Israel as 'nation-state of the Jewish people'.
Likud publicly 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 Sheva ("Channel 7"). Arutz Sheva was popular with the Jewish settler movement and often criticised the government from a right-wing perspective.
Historically, the Likud and its pre-1948 predecessor, the Revisionist movement advocated secular nationalism. However, the Likud's first prime minister and long-time leader Menachem Begin, though secular himself, cultivated a warm attitude to Jewish tradition and appreciation for traditionally religious Jews—especially from North Africa and the Middle East. This segment of the Israeli population first brought the Likud to power in 1977. Many Orthodox Israelis find the Likud a more congenial party than any other mainstream party, and in recent years also a large group of Haredim, mostly modern Haredim, joined the party and established The Haredi faction in the Likud.
|Leader||Took office||Left office||Prime Ministerial tenure|
|2||Yitzhak Shamir||1983||1993||1983–1984, 1986–1992|
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Yuli-Yoel Edelstein
- Yisrael Katz
- Gilad Erdan
- Moshe Kahlon
- Gideon Sa'ar
- Miri Regev
- Yariv Levin
- Yoav Galant
- Nir Barkat
- Gila Gamliel
- Avi Dichter
- Ze'ev Elkin
- Haim Katz
- Eli Cohen
- Tzachi Hanegbi
- Ofir Akunis
- Yuval Steinitz
- Tzipi Hotovely
- Dudi Amsalem
- Amir Ohana
- Ofir Katz
- Eti Atiya
- Yoav Kish
- David Bitan
- Keren Barak
- Shlomo Karai
- Miki Zohar
- Yifat Shasha-Biton
- Sharren Haskel
- Michal Shir
- Keti Shitrit
- Director General of the Likud: Gadi Arielli
- Deputy DG, head of the Municipal Division: Rafi Dwek
- Director of Foreign Affairs: Eli Hazan
- Manager of the Likud Chairman's Office: Hanni Bleiweiss
- Head of the Computer Division: Tsuri Siso
- Likud Spokeswoman: Noga Katz (Rappaport)
- Head of Internet & New Media: Shai Mordov
Likud Central Committee
Legal Advisor of the Likud Movement
Likud Youth Movement
Knesset election results
|Election year||Party Leader||Votes||%||Seats won||+/-||Notes||Gov?|
|1973||Menachem Begin||473,309||30.2 (#2)||
39 / 120
|1977||Menachem Begin||583,968||33.4 (#1)||
43 / 120
|4||Both members of Shlomtzion joined the party, giving it 45 seats.||Coalition|
|1981||Menachem Begin||718,941||37.1 (#1)||
48 / 120
|1984||Yitzhak Shamir||661,302||31.9 (#2)||
41 / 120
|1988||Yitzhak Shamir||709,305||31.1 (#1)||
40 / 120
|1992||Yitzhak Shamir||651,229||24.9 (#2)||
32 / 120
|1996||Benjamin Netanyahu||767,401||25.1 (#2)||
22 / 120
|10||In cartel with Gesher & Tzomet||Coalition|
|1999||Benjamin Netanyahu||468,103||14.1 (#2)||
19 / 120
|2003||Ariel Sharon||925,279||29.4 (#1)||
38 / 120
|2006||Benjamin Netanyahu||281,996||9.0 (#4)||
12 / 120
|2009||Benjamin Netanyahu||729,054||21.6 (#2)||
27 / 120
|2013||Benjamin Netanyahu||884,631||23.3 (#1)||
20 / 120
|7||with Yisrael Beiteinu||Coalition|
|2015||Benjamin Netanyahu||984,966||23.4 (#1)||
30 / 120
|April 2019||Benjamin Netanyahu||1,138,772||26.5 (#1)||
35 / 120
|September 2019||Benjamin Netanyahu||1,113,617||25.1 (#2)||
32 / 120
|2020||Benjamin Netanyahu||1,349,171||29.5 (#1)||
36 / 120
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Jabotinsky's movement and teachings, which can be characterized as national-liberalism, form the foundation of the Likud party.
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The Likud Party, the party of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is a national-liberal party, while the Labor Party, led by Shimon Peres, is more left-wing and identified as social-democratic.
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A national-liberal political movement (center-right, in Israeli terms) that was established as an alliance of parties that united into a single party in 1984.
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