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. (November 2011)
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.
A leadership election was held on 31 January 2012, with Netanyahu defeating Feiglin.
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.