A Timeline of the Likud: From Opposition to Leadership

Likud Chairman Netanyahu speaking
in front of a picture of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
It is impossible to understand the Likud without understanding the movement and persons which preceded it. Prime among them were Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin who succeeded him as leader of the Revisionist-Zionist movement upon which the Likud is based. This timeline is therefore broken up into two sections - one dealing with the Mandate era and the other with events from the establishment of the State of Israel and onwards. 

The Mandate: The Era of Jabotinsky

1903 – Jabotinsky joins Zionist movement, witnesses the aftermath of the Kishenev Pogroms, sets up Jewish self-defense organizations throughout Russia, elected a delegate at Sixth Zionist Congress (the Uganda Congress), takes part in the anti-Uganda walkout.

1906 – Jabotinsky leads Russian Zionist convention in drafting Helsingfors program on equal rights for minorities

Jabotinsky in his Legion uniform.
1909 – Jabotinsky appointed to conduct Zionist propaganda in Turkey

1910-13 – Jabotinsky leads struggle for Hebrew language education

1914-15 – Jabotinsky and Trumpledor secure creation of the Zion Mule Corps. 

1915-17 – Jabotinsky leads struggle for Jewish Legion and Zionism; Legion established; Balfour Declaration given.

1920 – Jabotinsky establishes the Haganah; He and Hagannah members jailed for attempt of defense of Jews during Arab riots. They are eventually released, but so are the rioters.

1922 – The League of Nations approves the Mandate for Palestine, appointing Britain Mandatory on the grounds that it is committed to transforming Palestine in the Jewish National Home.

1922-23 – British issue anti-Zionist White Paper, bar Jews from Trans Jordan; Jabotinsky Resigns from the Zionist executive over its “excessive leniency in representing the Zionist cause before the British.”

1925 – Jabotinsky forms the Revisionist-Zionist movement, organizes Conference of the League of Zionist Revisionists which resolves that “The aim of Zionism is the gradual transformation of Palestine (Trans Jordan included) into a Jewish commonwealth, that is into a self-governing Commonwealth under the auspices of an established Jewish majority. Any other interpretation of Zionism, especially the White Paper of 1922, must be considered invalid.”

1930-31 – Weizmann waters down Zionist aims, saying “The Jewish State was never an aim in and off itself” and later “ I have no . . . sympathy for a Jewish majority in Palestine.” Weizmann resigns as President. He endorses Jabotinsky’s candidacy, but the Congress does not elect Jabotinsky and refuses to endorse a Jewish state or Jewish majority as the goal of Zionism. Jabotinsky and the revisionists storm out.

1931-32 – Haganaha Bet established from ranks of disaffected non-socialist Haganah members backed by all non-socialist parties of Yishuv.

1933 – Histadrut leader Chaim Arlosoroff is murdered, Arabs confess to the crime, but the Histadrut and Socialist parties claims it was a Betar member, Avraham Stavsky, to vilify the Revisionists, despite Stavskies acquittal. Ben-Gurion accusses Jabotinsky of collaborating with Hitler because of Jabotinsky’s anti-communist statements.

1935  Revisionist movement secedes from Zionist movement. 

1937 – Irgun Zvai Leumi established from Haganah Bet with Jabotinsky as “supereme commander”; British Royal Commission of Inquiry investigates Palestine Jabotinsky testifies against “partition,” demands establishment of a Jewish majority in Palestine and evacuation of European Jews to Palestine.

1936-39 – Jabotinsky proposes and campaigns for mass evacuation plan for European Jewry; warns European Jewry to escape; Arab "Revolt" and anti-Jewish terror rages in Palestine.

1938 – Menachem Begin chosen as Chairman of Polish Betar, the largest chapter of the Revisionist youth movement, with approximately 100,000 members.

1939 –The British issue White Paper limiting Jewish immigration to 75,000 over the next five years. Hitler invades Poland, which houses the largest Jewish population and he largest section of the Revisionist movement.

1939-40 – Jabotinsky arrives in the U.S. to campaign for a Jewish army, dies a few months later of heart problems leaving revisionist movement in shock and disarray; Begin is arrested by Russian NKVD, sent to Plechroa Labor camp (part of the Gulag).

1941-42 – Menachem Begin is released from the Gulag, arrives in Palestine, assumes command of the Irgun.

Rabbis' March on Washington organized by Bergson
(a.k.a. Hillel Kook) Group. Source: Wyman Institute.
1942-43 – Full extent of the Nazi slaughter is revealed to the public; Jabotinsky’s followers led by Irgun commander Hillel Kook campaign for rescue of European Jewry in the U.S. succeeds in convincing Roosevelt to establish the War Refugee Board which oversees and funds rescue operations of 200-250,000 Jews.

1944 – The Irgun announces the “Revolt” against British rule in Palestine.  The Haganah responds to British pressure by informing on and hunting down Irgun and Lehi agents, sometimes even torturing them, in what is known as the “saison.”

1947 –Unable to quash the Revolt, the British submit the question of Palestine to the United Nations. The U.N. General Assembly votes for partition.

The Establishment of the State: The Era of Herut & the Likud

The Altalena smoking after being fired on. 
1948 – The State of Israel declared; the Irgun weapons ship Altelana is attacked and sunk by the Hagannah – but Begin restrains Irgun from retaliation, Irgun merges into the Haganah, Begin forms Herut, whose members face campaign of delegitimization and are vilified as fascists and extremists. 

1950s – Herut presents itself as an opposition party, but is sidelined and vilified by Mapai; Herut leads the public struggle against German reparations. Herut attempts mergers with General Zionists but they refuse.

Menachem Begin speaking to the
Herut party.  The parties slogan is
written on the podium: Moledet
(homeland) and Herut (liberty).
1965 – Herut and the Liberal party form united list – Gahal (Gush Herut Liberalim).

1964 – Levi Eshkol orders Jabotinsky to be buried in Israel. Displaying his faith in Zionism and inevitable establishment of a Jewish state despite the suffering of European Jewry and Arab Opposition, Jabotinsky had ordered in his will that he be buried in Israel on the orders of a Jewish government. Ben Gurion refused to make the order. 

1967 – Gahal joins the national unity government and Menachem Begin becomes a minister without portfolio. During the war, Begin lobbies other ministers and army officials to ensure the capture of the East Jerusalem and the Old City prior to a ceasefire.

1970 – Begin quits government over endorsement of “Rogers plan” to withdraw to the ’49 lines.

1973 –Gahal merges with several smaller parties to form the Likud list.

1977 –The Likud wins Knesset elections, Menachem Begin becomes prime minister, enacts new liberalizing economic policies, invites President Sadat to Jerusalem, invests heavily in settlements.

1978 – Likud government initiates community rehabilitation project for distressed communities.

1979  Israel signs treaty with Egypt.

1980 – The Knesset approves Basic Law: Jerusalem, enshrining Jewish control over Jerusalem in a semi-constitutional Basic Law.

1981 – Begins orders the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor and pushes the Golan Law through the Knesset in one day, extending law, jurisdiction and administration of Israel to the Golan Heights. Likud decisively wins elections.

1982 – In response to terrorist attacks, Israel invades Lebanon and expels the PLO, but is dragged into a wider conflict.

1983 – After the death of his wife and amidst a slander campaign, Begin resigns as Prime Minister and from political life. Yitzchak Shamir, a former Lehi commander, is chosen leader of the Likud and Prime Minister in Begin's stead.

1984 – Elections result in deadlock between Likud and Labor, the parties form a national unity government with rotation.

1988 – National Unity Government formed with Shamir as Prime Minister and no rotation.

1987 – U.S. Congress names Israel as a main non-NATO ally and a Memorandum of understanding is signed between the two countries.

1988 – All parties of Likud merge ending internal rivalries.

1990 – National Unity government falters, after new elections Likud forms a government with Shamir as Prime Minister.

1991 – Shamir orders Operation Solomon – the airlift of Ethiopian Jews; Prime Minister Shamir leads Israeli delegation to the Madrid Conference to directly negotiate with Arab states.

1992 – Labor wins elections; Shamir steps down as Likud chairman.

1993 – Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli ambassador to the U.N., is elected chairman of the Likud. 

1993-96 – Netanyahu puts Likud finances in order; heavily criticizes Oslo Accords.

1996 – Netanyahu elected 9th Prime Minister of Israel in direct elections.

1997-98 – Likud government introduces economic reforms in telecommunications, privatization of government-owned companies; Netanyahu authorizes Hevron withdrawals and signs Wye Memorandum. 

1999 – Backed by Yitzchak Shamir, three Likud MKs including Benny Begin leave Likud and form a new Herut party; Likud loses elections; Ehud Barak is elected Prime Minister; Ariel Sharon is elected chairman of the Likud.

2000 – Moshe Katzav, member of Likud, elected President of Israel

2001 – Likud wins elections, Sharon elected Prime Minster of Israel

2002  Israel takes aggressive action against terrorists and builds security barrier. The Likud Central Committee passes resolution against a Palestinian state.

2003 – Likud wins elections, Sharon elected Prime minister again

2004  Sharon presents Disengagement Plan. Likud, in a party referendum, votes against it 59-41%. Sharon pushes it through the Knesset nonetheless.

2005 – Netanyahu resigns from Government over Disengagement Plan. Disengagement is carried out. Having lost popular support in the Likud, Sharon and many other Likud members leave Likud and form Kadima.

2006 - Kadima wins elections, Ehud Olmert becomes Prime Minister and proposes “Convergence” – a new disengagement plan for Judea and Samaria (West Bank). Benjamin Netanyahu leads Likud in the opposition.

2008-9 – Benny Begin rejoins the Likud. Likud wins elections, Netanyahu forms broad multi-party government and becomes Prime Minister. 

2009 – Netanyahu endorses two-state solution on the condition of demilitarization and freezes settlement construction for ten months. 

2010The Likud Central Committee votes that at the end of the Freeze building should continue.  When 3 month freeze extension is demanded by the Obama Administration, Likud notables including Benny Begin, Moshe Ya'alon and Silvan Shalom, sign letter opposing the Freeze. The U.S. eventually drops its demand, on the grounds that the settlement freeze would not achieve results in the peace process.