The Likud Bloc
In the ninth Knesset elections in May 1977, the center-right
Likud alliance emerged victorious and replaced the previously
dominant Labor alignment for the first time in the history of
independent Israel. The Likud Bloc, founded in 1973, consisted
of the Free Center, Herut (Tnuat HaHerut or Freedom Movement--see
Appendix B), Laam (For the Nation--see Appendix B), and Gahal
(Freedom-Liberal Bloc--see Appendix B). In large part, Likud was
the direct ideological descendant of the Revisionist Party, established
by Vladimir Jabotinsky in 1925 (see Revisionist Zionism , ch.
The Revisionist Party, so named to underscore the urgency of
revision in the policies of the WZO's Executive, advocated militancy
and ultranationalism as the primary political imperatives of the
Zionist struggle for Jewish statehood. The Revisionist Party demanded
that the entire mandated territory of historical Palestine on
both sides of the Jordan River, including Transjordan, immediately
become a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. Revisionist objectives
clashed with the policies of the British authorities, Labor Zionists,
and Palestinian Arabs. The Revisionist Party, in which Menachem
Begin played a major role, contended that the British must permit
unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine and demanded that
the Jewish Legion be reestablished and that Jewish youths be trained
The Revisionist Party also attacked the Histadrut, whose Labor
Zionist leadership under Ben-Gurion was synonymous with the leadership
of the politically dominant Mapai. Ben-Gurion accused the revisionists
of being "fascists"; the latter countercharged that the policies
being pursued by Ben-Gurion and his Labor Zionist allies, including
Chaim Weizmann, were so conciliatory toward the British authorities
and Palestinian Arabs and so gradual in terms of state-building
as to be self-defeating.
In 1933 the Revisionist Party seceded from the WZO and formed
the rival New Zionist Organization. After 1936 the revisionists
rejected British and official Zionist policies of restraint in
the face of Arab attacks, and they formed two anti-British and
anti-Arab guerrilla groups. One, the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National
Military Organization, Irgun for short) was formed in 1937; an
offshoot of the Irgun, the Stern Gang also known as Lehi (from
Lohamei Herut Israel, Fighters for Israel's Freedom), was formed
in 1940 (see Historical Background , ch. 5). These revisionist
paramilitary groups operated independently of, and at times in
conflict with, the official Zionist defense organization, the
Haganah; they engaged in systematic terror and sabotage against
the British authorities and the Arabs.
After independence Prime Minister Ben-Gurion dissolved the Irgun
and other paramilitary organizations such as Lehi and the Palmach
(see Glossary). In 1948 remnants of the dissolved Irgun created
In the mid-1960s, Herut took steps to broaden its political base
and attain greater legitimacy. In 1963 it established the Blue-White
(Tkhelet-Lavan) faction to contest the previously boycotted Histadrut
elections. In 1965 Herut and the Liberal Party (see Appendix B)
formed Gahal (Gush Herut-Liberalim), a parliamentary and electoral
bloc, to contest both Knesset and Histadrut elections. The final
step in gaining greater political legitimacy occurred just before
the outbreak of the June 1967 War, when Begin and his Gahal associates
agreed to join the government to demonstrate internal Israeli
unity in response to an external threat.
Gahal continued as part of the Meir cabinet formed after the
1969 elections. Gahal ministers withdrew from the cabinet in 1970
to protest what they believed to be Prime Minister Meir's conciliatory
policy on territorial issues (see Foreign Relations , this ch.).
In the summer of 1973, Gahal organized the Likud alignment in
which Herut continued to be preeminent.
In the November 1988 elections, Likud lost one Knesset seat.
Nevertheless, observers believed that demographic indicators favored
continued support for Likud and its right-wing allies among young
people and Orientals.
The most prominent leaders of Likud in 1988, as in previous years,
were members of its Herut faction. They included Prime Minister
Shamir; Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Arens, a likely successor
to Shamir as leader of Herut; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister
of Housing David Levi, the chief Sephardic political figure; Minister
of Commerce and Industry Ariel Sharon; and Deputy Minister of
Foreign Affairs Benjamin Netanyahu.
Data as of December 1988