The Likud Party started out as a group of parties that united in 1973 just before the elections to the 8th Knesset, and included Herut, the Liberal Party, the Free Center, the National List, and the Labor Movement for Greater Israel. The list for the Knesset was drawn up from representatives of the various movements, based on an agreed formula.
Chosen to head the party was the veteran leader of Herut and the former Etzel commander, MK Menachem Begin. Begin, who until the establishment of the Likud, had led the Herut Party as the hawkish right wing marker on the Israel political map, chose to lead the newly created party in a more moderate manner. From its inception, the Likud Party adopted the principles of social equality, a free market economy, and preservation of Jewish tradition and culture, values that were largely shaped according to the teachings of Zeev Jabotinsky.
After some 30 years in opposition, the party headed by Menachem Begin first came to power in 1977, in what would eventually be referred to as “the Upheaval”. As Prime Minister, Begin led the State of Israel to the historic peace agreement with Egypt, the bombing of the atomic reactor in Iraq, and oversaw the IDF in Operation Peace for Galilee. Under Begin’s leadership, the Likud raised the banner of Jewish settlement in Judea & Samaria and in Galilee, and introduced the Jerusalem Law, which established the status of united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. In 1983 Begin retired from political life, and Yitzhak Shamir was appointed Prime Minister in his place. Shamir served as Prime Minister on behalf of the Likud on and off from 1986 to 1992, and became known for his steadfastness and refusal to compromise on the security of Israel.
As Prime Minister of the Unity Government that he formed, Shamir managed to curb the inflation that was running out of control and to stabilize the economy. He also took part in the historic Madrid Conference and guided the Israeli policy of restraint in the Gulf War. Shamir will be remembered for his enthusiastic promotion of the historical enterprises of Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union, and from Ethiopia in Operation Solomon.
After Shamir’s retirement as the head of the Party, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected to lead the Likud, after his victory in the Party primaries. Three years after his election, Netanyahu led the Likud to a sweeping electoral victory and became the ninth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. During his term of office, he adopted an aggressive policy towards terror attacks and promoted the peace process, while signing considered agreements with the Palestinians based on the principle of reciprocity. During his three year term, the level of terrorism dropped dramatically.
In the field of economics, Netanyahu introduced liberalization of foreign currency, intensified the privatization of government companies, and reduced the deficit. During his term as Prime Minister, foreign investment in Israeli high tech industries amounted to billions of dollars every year. In 1999 Netanyahu retired from politics, and was succeeded as leader of the Party by Ariel Sharon.
Sharon restored the Likud to government in 2001 after defeating the then Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the elections. Sharon served in government on behalf of the Likud until November 2005. During his term of office, he instigated Operation Defensive Shield and led the construction of the separation fence, steps that overcame the wave of terror that was sweeping over the State of Israel at that time. In summer 2005 Sharon led the Gaza disengagement plan, and at the end of November that year, he left the Likud to set up a new party.
When Sharon left, Benjamin Netanyahu was chosen as his successor, and after three years in opposition, the Likud headed by Netanyahu returned to power in 2009 and the second Netanyahu government was inaugurated on March 31, 2009. Netanyahu’s second term as Prime Minister was characterized by intensive activity and far reaching changes in numerous aspects of life. Among the measures taken by the Netanyahu government to date we can mention: the Free Education Law for children aged 3 and up, extensive reforms in the cellular network industry, free dental treatment for children to the age of 12, tax benefits for working parents, constructions of tens of thousands of housing units that reversed the trend in prices of new apartments in Israel, the creation of 300,000 new jobs since the start of the present government, and more.