LIKUD ("Union"), Israeli political party that started off in 1973 as a list in the elections and a parliamentary group. Originally the Likud was made up of the *Ḥerut Movement, the *Israel Liberal Party – the two large components that remained its core until they finally merged into a single party in 1988 – and several small parties and groups: Ha-Merkaz ha-Ḥofshi, Ha-Reshima ha-Mamlakhtit, and part of the Movement for Greater Israel. Over the years the makeup of the Likud changed. Though Ariel *Sharon was the prime mover for the establishment of the Likud after he left active military service and joined the Liberal Party, from the outset it was headed by the leader of the Herut movement, Menaḥem *Begin, and as of October 1983, by Yitzhak *Shamir. After the Likud turned into a party Binyamin *Netanyahu was elected chairman in 1993 followed by Ariel *Sharon in 1999.
Ideologically the Likud is right of center, with a socioeconomic policy that vacillates between Thatcherism and populism. In terms of Israel's defense doctrine and the war against terrorism the difference between the Likud and Labor is more in style and emphasis than in substance. In terms of the political process at first the Likud was unanimously opposed to any territorial compromise with regard to all the territories occupied by Israel in the course of the Six-Day War. However, in 1977 it was a government led by the Likud that returned the whole of the Sinai Peninsula, down to the last grain of sand in Taba, to Egypt. In the late 1980s the idea of a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was also first sounded by mkRoni *Milo from within the Likud. When the Declaration of Principles signed with the plo in 1993 was brought to the Knesset for approval several members of the Likud abstained, and in 1996, when the Likud returned to power, Prime Minister Netanyahu signed the Hebron memorandum and the Wye Plantation agreement, which were further steps in the realization of the Oslo Agreement. However, Netanyahu was much more blunt in his demand that the Palestinians disarm the terrorists and fulfill their obligation to amend the articles in the Palestine National Covenant advocating the destruction of Israel. The Likud's switch to political pragmatism was completed after the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset, when Prime Minister Sharon opted for a policy of disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and the dismantling of all the Jewish settlements there, and a few in northern Samaria. Nevertheless, this policy was strongly opposed by the Likud Conference, led by several old-time Likudniks such as Uzi Landau and David *Levy, and a group of extreme right-wingers that had joined the Likud toward the elections. Already in 1970, before he retired from the idf and entered politics, Ariel Sharon supported the establishment of a Palestinian state – in Jordan. In 1978 Menaḥem Begin spoke of a solution of the Palestinian problem in the form of "autonomy." In general the Likud has been slower than Labor in accepting the concept of the establishment of a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Though a secular party, the Likud has been more traditional and respectful of Jewish tradition than the Labor Party, and even though its leadership has not been less Ashkenazi than Labor's, it has been viewed as more hospitable to Sephardim. In terms of Jewish settlement in the territories occupied in 1967, such settlement began when Labor was still in power, but the settlement movement received much more governmental backing and support after the Likud came to power in 1977, with Ariel Sharon playing a major role in this respect in his various ministerial capacities.
Like the Labor Party, the Likud underwent a process of democratization from the end of the 1980s, but whereas in Labor the broad party membership was given most of the power to elect its representatives and leaders, in the Likud most of the power has remained in the hands of the Central Committee. This has weakened the traditional Likud leadership and strengthened extremist elements.
After receiving 39 seats in the elections for the Eighth Knesset in 1973, the Likud emerged as the largest parliamentary group after the elections to the Ninth Knesset in 1977 with 43 seats. In the 1981 elections it received 48 seats, in 1984 41 seats, in 1988 40 seats, in 1992 32 seats, in 1996 (together with *Tzomet and Gesher) 32 seats, in 1999 19 seats, and in 2003 38 seats. There was a Likud prime minister in the years 1977–84, 1986–92, 1996–99, and from 2001. From 1984 to 1990, from 2001 to 2002, and again in 2005 when the Likud formed a National Unity Government with Labor. However, in late 2005, Ariel Sharon broke away from the Likud to form the Kadimah Party (see *Israel, State of: Political Life and Parties) and consequently, in the 2006 elections, the Likud won just 12 seats with Binyamin Netanyahu again at the helm. The first time the Likud managed to get its candidate elected as president of the state was in 2003, when Moshe *Katzav ran against Shimon *Peres.
A. Na'or, Ketovet al Hakir: Le'an Movil ha-Likkud? (1988); A. Ansky, Mekhirat ha-Likkud (2000); Y. Moskovitz, Likkud beli Likkud: Ma'avakei Otẓma be-Mifleget ha-Likkud bein ha-Shanim 1974–2002 (2004).
An Israeli electoral bloc established in 1973.
Originally, Likud consisted of several independent parties: the Herut Party, the Liberal Party, the Free Center, State List, and part of the Land of Israel Movement. Much of the emphasis of its program has been on extension of Israeli sovereignty to the territories conquered in the Arab–Israel War of 1967. It also called for improvement of the social and economic conditions of disadvantaged communities known as Oriental Jews (Edot ha-Mizrah).
Taking advantage of public disenchantment with the Labor Party in 1977, Likud won forty-three Knesset seats and formed a coalition government led by Menachem Begin, which continued until 1984. In that year, neither Likud nor the Labor Alignment bloc won enough to form a coalition without the other. The two joined in a National Unity Government in which Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir held the office of prime minister for half of the electoral period, and the blocs divided other government offices. In 1988, Likud and other right-wing and religious parties improved their showing, and Shamir again led the government until the Labor victory of 1992.
During its years in power, Likud strongly resisted surrendering sovereignty over the Palestinian territories and made little progress in reducing the role of the government in the economy. One of Likud's problems has been the presence in it of several strong individuals and their factions, including Shamir, former Chief of Staff Ariel Sharon, and Moroccan leader David Levy—all of whom have tried vigorously to become dominant. In 1993, the Likud chairmanship was won by Benjamin Netanyahu, former ambassador to the United Nations and brother to the hero of the Israeli raid on Entebbe. He defeated his former rivals as well as younger figures like Ze'ev Begin, with a spirited campaign based on American-style politics and effective use of the media, even though it was an election confined to party members.
see also arab–israel war (1967); israel: political parties in; mizrahi movement.
walter f. weiker