Center Party (Mifleget Ha-Merkaz)
CENTER PARTY (Mifleget ha-Merkaz)
An Israeli political entity, the Center Party was created on 25 January 1999 under the impetus of Yitzhak Mordechai, former defense minister, who had resigned from the Netanyahu government and was a dissident from the Likud Party. Among the main leaders of this party were Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former chief of the general staff of the Israel Defense Force; Dan Meridor, former finance minister, who had resigned from the Netanyahu government and was also a dissident from Likud; and Roni Milo, former mayor of Tel Aviv and former Likud member. A few days later, they were joined by Dalia Rabin-Pelosoff, the daughter of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and by Uri Savir. Formed in anticipation of the general elections of May 1999, this party declared itself in favor of the creation of a Palestinian entity, and of a territorial compromise on the Golan Heights, under certain conditions for protecting the security of Israel. Their official stand on the Golan Heights issue demonstrated the party's ability to reconcile divergent views. Mordechai was designated as candidate for the post of prime minister, to run against Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Benny Begin, and Azmi Bishara. On 14 May, just before the vote, Mordechai announced the withdrawal of his candidacy and asked his supporters to vote in favor Barak, the candidate of the Labor Party.
On 18 May, as a result of the elections, in which Barak emerged the victor, the Center Party won six seats in the Knesset and agreed to join Barak's governing coalition. The Center Party received many votes from supporters of the Third Way. Two leaders of the Center Party joined Barak's cabinet: Mordechai, as deputy prime minister and transport minister, and Lipkin-Shahak, as minister of tourism. On 28 May 2000, implicated in a sexual harassment scandal, Mordechai resigned his ministerial duties and his post as president of the Center Party. Early elections for the post of prime minister took place on 6 February 2001 and resulted in the victory of Ariel Sharon, the head of Likud. A few days later, the number of deputies of the Center Party fell to five, after the departure of Rabin-Pelosoff, who created her own party, the New Way, and then, the following month, joined the Sharon government as deputy minister of defense. Two leaders of the Center Party, Meridor and Milo, joined Sharon's national unity government in August 2001 and were respectively named minister without portfolio, in charge of strategic affairs, and minister of regional cooperation, effectively dismantling the Center Party, which received only 0.1 percent of the vote in the 2003 elections.