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Herut Party ("Liberty", in Hebrew)

HERUT PARTY ("liberty", in Hebrew)

Israeli political party, founded in 1948 by Menachem Begin, until then head of Irgun. Herut advocated the creation of a Jewish state and picked as its slogan "God has chosen us to rule." In the first Knesset elections, in January 1949, Herut obtained 11.5 percent of the votes, becoming the fourth largest party, with fourteen seats in the Knesset, whereas the MAPAI (Labor) won forty-six seats. Between 1953 and 1959, after losing six seats in 1951, Herut strove to gain some of the Sephardic vote, which had tended to favor MAPAI; it won seventeen seats in the Knesset and MAPAI won forty-seven. In April 1965, in order to pose a more effective opposition to Labor, Herut allied itself with the Liberal Party, which had separated from the General Zionists to form a parliamentary bloc, the GAHAL, which had twenty-six seats under its control. In 1966 Begin was reproached for weakening the party and on 1 June 1967, just before the 1967 War, he joined the Labor-led government of Levi Eshkol as minister without portfolio. Several other members of GAHAL also joined Eshkol's cabinet. In October 1969, with twenty-six seats in the Knesset, as opposed to fifty-six for the Labor bloc, six members of the GAHAL bloc entered the Labor government of Golda Meir. Among them, Ezer Weizman, in transportation, was the first general to have joined a rightist party. In August 1970 Begin and his GAHAL allies resigned their positions as soon as the government's acceptance of the Rogers Plan was announced.

During the spring of 1973, Likud ("Consolidation"), a coalition of the Israel right, was constituted under Ariel Sharon, Menachem Begin, and Yitzhak Shamir, and led by Begin. It united Herut, the Liberal Party, the Free Center, and the Movement for Greater Israel. During August 1976, after the death of his brother in the Israeli raid on Entebbe, Benjamin Netanyahu joined Herut. At the year's end, in anticipation of the coming elections, Sharon resigned from the Likud coalition to create his own political group, Shlomzion. In May of the following year, the Likud bloc won the legislative elections with forty-three seats against the Labor Party's thirty-two. Sharon's group, with two seats, joined with the Likud coalition. Since 1977 Herut has existed as the senior partner of the Likud coalition, and the Herut/Likud bloc has formed the basis of most Israeli governments since then.

SEE ALSO Arab-Israel War (1967); Begin, Menachem; Irgun; Likud; Netanyahu, Benjamin; Rogers Plan; Shamir, Yitzhak; Sharon, Ariel; Weizman, Ezer.

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