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Levy, David

LEVY, DAVID

Israeli political figure, born in December 1937, in Morocco. After immigrating to Israel in 1957, Levy worked as a mason, then began a career as a union organizer, for the Labor Party, MAPAI. In 1966, he was a member of the municipal council of Beit Shean, and three years later he was elected member of Knesset for the right-wing party, Herut. In 1977, after having failed in a bid to become secretary general of the Histadrut union organization, he became minister of immigrant absorption in the government of Menachem Begin, leader of Herut. Between 1978 and 1980, as minister of housing and construction, he favored the development of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, all the while backing the restitution of the Sinai to Egypt, in exchange for a peace agreement. In 1981, he was once again a losing candidate for the post of secretary general of Histadrut. Between 1981 and 1984, Levy was deputy prime minister and minister of housing in the government of Yitzhak Shamir.

In Herut, where he represented the Sephardi community, David Levy was among the candidates to succeed Menachem Begin as party leader, a position finally won by Yitzhak Shamir. From 1988 to 1990 he was minister of housing and construction, then foreign minister from June 1990 to June 1992, in the Shamir government. In this capacity he participated in the Middle East peace conference, held in Madrid, in 1991, where his relations with Benjamin Netanyahu, spokesperson for the Israeli government and rising star of the Israeli right, were strained. During the first part of 1995, his conflict with Netanyahu, who had meanwhile become Likud leader, prompted him to quit this bloc and create his own party, Gesher "Bridge" Party. On 8 February 1996, in anticipation of the general elections of the following May, he accepted an alliance with Likud and the Tzomet Party, to constitute a common list in support of the candidacy of Netanyahu for the post of prime minister. On 29 May 1996, his party won five seats in the Knesset. On 18 June, he became foreign minister in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. As soon as his assumed this post, Levy found himself isolated in a cabinet that was dominated by ultranationalists, and where all matters of importance were dealt with by the prime minister himself, which prevented him from having any impact on the course of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. On 7 July 1997, he was officially mandated to handle negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, which, provisionally, ended his conflict with the prime minister. On 25 August, he became deputy prime minister, all the while keeping his foreign minister's portfolio.

On 5 January 1998, judging that, decidedly, he had no real power, Levy resigned from his positions. During the month of February 1999, looking forward to the general elections of the following May, he joined with the Israel Labor Party and with Meimad to constitute the electoral list of "One Israel," which, on 18 May, won twenty-six seats, while the head of the Labor Party, Ehud Barak, was elected prime minister. On 5 July, he joined the Barak government as foreign minister. On 8 September, three days after the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Sharm al-Shaykh Summits, the Israeli prime minister asked him to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians on the final status of the Palestinian territories. Five days later, he reaffirmed the determination of Israel to maintain its sovereignty over Jerusalem and to refuse to return to the frontiers of pre-June 1967. At the end of July 2000, he expressed, publicly, his opposition to the offers made by the Israeli prime minister at the Israeli-Palestinian summit which was taking place at the Camp David Accords. On 2 July, following, he resigned his post as minister, and, a few days later, decided to join Likud. When, in March 2001, Likud leader Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister, Levy was not part of the new government. Levy later served as minister without portfolio in Sharon's coalition government, but resigned in July 2002 in protest over planned budget cuts and the exclusion of the cabinet from the decision-making process.


SEE ALSO Barak, Ehud; Begin, Menachem; Camp David Accords; Gesher "Bridge" Party; Herut Party; Histadrut; Israel Labor Party; Likud; MAPAI; Meimad; Palestinian Authority; Shamir, Yitzhak; Sharm al-Shaykh Summits; Tzomet Party.

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