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Posted by pompos 03/14/2009 @ 14:10

Tags : likud, knesset, israel, middle east, world

News headlines
Civil Fights: How to walk a tightrope - Jerusalem Post
A particularly egregious case occurred in 1987, when then foreign minister Shimon Peres negotiated an agreement with Jordan's King Hussein behind the back of his own prime minister - who, because Labor and Likud were in a unity government,...
Analysis / Budget affair has left Netanyahu bruised and weakened - Ha'aretz
"All we need is that he'll begin to believe everything they say about him in the papers," a Likud minister said. Roni Bar-On, finance minister until about two months ago, said that for the first six months of his tenure Eini didn't dare to cross his...
Netanyahu sees Abdullah in prelude to Obama talks - Washington Post
Looking ahead to the Israeli leader's meeting next Monday with Obama, Zalman Shoval, chairman of the foreign policy committee in Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, pointed to divisions with Washington. "It is completely clear President Obama will...
Right urges PM: Don't give in to Obama - Jerusalem Post
Photo: AP Likud MK Danny Danon convened MKs, professors and other public figures who oppose a Palestinian state to counteract the pressure on Netanyahu from world leaders and the Left to endorse the mantra of "two states for two peoples....
Citi: Budget approval process points to higher interest rates - Globes
Analyst David Lubin finds that the approval process reflected tension between, "fiscal 'hawks' in Likud and the finance ministry;" and "doves of Histadrut." Citi analyst David Lubin says that the process leading to yesterday's approval of the 2009-2010...
Likud activists upset that ministers failed to give them jobs - Jerusalem Post
By GIL HOFFMAN Hundreds of Likud activists slammed their party's ministers for not appointing them to political patronage positions, at a rally in Or Yehuda on Sunday night. The activists complained that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not...
Ministers to Homesh evacuees: You'll return to settlement - Ynetnews
"I want to bless the participants and support them in the realization of the Zionist way," wrote strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon of the ruling Likud party. Palestinian cab driver complained settlers 'tried to pull me into my car to burn me in...
Waiting for Netanyahu - KFSM
Changing his mind could very well cause the members of his own party, Likud, to leave the coalition; the outcome, Dayan knew, would be the fall of the government and the end of any hope for peace. In the end, Dayan prevailed....
Obama is changing the rules of Mideast pressure - Ha'aretz
Obama had already announced during the campaign for the presidency that a "friend of Israel" is not, in his opinion, synonymous with being a Likud member. In his first days at the White House he has made clear that whether a two-state solution is...


Likud party logo

Likud (Hebrew: ליכוד‎, lit. Consolidation) is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin, largely as the "direct ideological descendant of the right-wing Revisionist Party", in an alliance with several other right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had lost power. However, after ruling the country for most of the 1980s, the party has won only one Knesset election since 1992, though its candidate, Benjamin Netanyahu, did win the popular vote for Prime Minister in 1996 and was given the task to form a government after the 2009 elections. After a big win in the 2003 elections, a major split in 2005 saw Likud leader Ariel Sharon leave to form the new Kadima party, with Likud slumping to fourth place in elections the following year. A member is called a Likudnik (Hebrew: לִכּוּדְנִיק‎) and the party now leads the opposition in the Knesset.

The Likud supports free market capitalism and liberalism, though in practice it has mostly adopted mixed economic policies. The Likud, under the guidance of Finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, pushed through legislation reducing value added tax (VAT), income and corporate taxes significantly, as well as customs duty. Likewise, it has instituted free-trade (especially with the European Union and the U.S.) and dismantled certain monopolies (Bezeq and the sea ports). Additionally, it has managed to privatize numerous government owned companies (El Al and Bank Leumi). The last Likud Finance minister, now the party leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, was the most ardent free-market Israeli Finance minister to-date, argues that Israel's largest labor union, the Histadrut, has so much power as to be capable of paralyzing the Israeli economy. He also claims that the main causes of unemployment are laziness and excessive benefits to the unemployed." Under Netanyahu, Likud has and is likely to maintain a comparatively right-wing conservative economic stance, although it might be considered centrist or even progressive from a world view.

Likud has in the past espoused hawkish policies towards the Palestinians, including opposition to Palestinian statehood and support of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, it has also been the party which carried out the first peace agreements with Arab states. For instance, in 1979, Likud Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, signed the Camp David Accords with Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, which returned the Sinai Peninsula (occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967) to Egypt in return for peace between the two countries. Yitzhak Shamir also granted some legitimacy to the Palestinians by meeting them at the ill-fated Madrid Conference following the Persian Gulf War in 1991. However, Shamir refused to concede the idea of a Palestinian state, and as a result was blamed by some (including U.S. Secretary of State James Baker) for the failure of the summit. Later, as Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu restated Likud's position of opposing Palestinian statehood, which after the Oslo Accords was largely accepted by the opposition Labor Party, even though the shape of any such state was not clear.

Following conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in 2002, Israel's Likud-led government reoccupied Arab towns and refugee camps in West Bank, a position that remains unchanged today. In 2005 Ariel Sharon defied the recent tendencies of Likud and abandoned the "Greater Israel" policy of seeking to settle the West Bank and Gaza. Though re-elected Prime Minister on a platform of no unilateral withdrawals, Sharon carried out the Israeli unilateral disengagement plan, withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and demolishing the Israeli settlements there, as well as four settlements in the northern West Bank. Whilst an overwhelming majority of the Likud's membership opposed this policy, Sharon achieved the approval of this policy through the necessary government channels by firing all cabinet members who opposed the plan before the vote in order to assure a needed majority, and by submitting his plan to what Sharon called a "binding" vote in his party which he lost and yet later disregarded.

Ariel Sharon and the faction who supported his "Disengagement" proposals left the Likud party after the Disengagement and joined the new Kadima party which was itself founded by former Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This new party supports unilateral disengagement from most of the West Bank and the fixing of borders by the separation barrier. The basic premise of the policy is the view that the Israelis have no viable negotiating partner on the Palestinian side, and since they cannot remain in indefinite occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel should unilaterally withdraw. If pursued, this further Disengagement will, according to many, ultimately mean allowing the creation a Palestinian state although smaller than most Palestinians are likely to accept.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the new rightist leader of Likud, and Silvan Shalom, the party's #2 ranking member, both supported (against the Likud charter) the disengagement plan, however Netanyahu resigned his ministerial post before the plan was executed. Most current Likud members support the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and oppose Arab statehood and the disengagement from Gaza.

The Likud promotes a revival of Jewish-oriented culture, in keeping with the principles of Revisionist Zionism.

The Likud emphasize such nationalist themes as the flag and the victory in Israel's 1948 war with neighbouring Arab states. The Likud advocates teaching values in childhood education. The Likud endorses press freedom and promotion of private-sector media, which has grown markedly under governments Likud has led. A Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon, however, closed the popular right-wing pirate radio station Arutz 7 ("Channel 7). Arutz 7 was popular with the settlement movement and often criticised the government from a right-wing perspective. However, the Likud is inclined towards the Torah and expresses support for it within the context of civil Judaism, as a result of its Irgun past, which aligned itself according to the word of the Tanakh.

Likud currently has 27 Knesset members. They are listed below in the order that they appeared on the party's list for the 2009 elections.

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Prime Minister of Israel

Coat of arms of Israel.svg

The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and is the most powerful political officer in Israel (the title of President of Israel, despite being head of state, is an honorary position). He or she wields executive power in the country, and has an official residence in Jerusalem, the "Agion House", at the corner of Balfour and Smolenskin streets in Rehavia. The current Prime Minister is Ehud Olmert of Kadima, the twelfth person to hold the position (excluding caretakers).

Following an election, the President nominates a Prime Minister after asking party leaders whom they support for the position, though between 1996 and 2001 the Prime Minister was elected in a separate election to the rest of the Knesset. In Hebrew the position is called Rosh HaMemshala (Hebrew: ראש הממשלה‎, literally "Head of Government"), a term also applied to foreign Prime Ministers. Occasionally, the title of "Premier" is used when referring to the Prime Minister.

The office of Prime Minister came into existence on 14 May 1948, the date of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, when the provisional government was created. David Ben-Gurion, leader of Mapai and head of the Jewish Agency became Israel's first Prime Minister. The position became permanent on 8 March 1949, when the first government was formed.

Ben-Gurion retained his role until the late 1953, when he resigned in order to settle in the Kibbutz of Sde Boker. He was replaced by Moshe Sharret. However, Ben-Gurion returned in little under two years to reclaim his position.

He resigned for a second time in 1963, annoyed at a lack of support from colleagues, and broke away from Mapai to form Rafi. Levi Eshkol took over as head of Mapai and Prime Minister. He became the first Prime Minister to head the country under the banner of two parties when Mapai formed the Alignment with Ahdut HaAvoda in 1965. In 1968 he also became the only party leader to date to command an absolute majority in the Knesset, after Mapam and Rafi merged into the Alignment, giving it 63 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

On 26 February 1969, Eshkol became the first Prime Minister to die in office, and was temporarily replaced by Yigal Allon. However, Allon's stint as Interim PM lasted less than a month, as the party persuaded Golda Meir to return to political life and become Prime Minister in March 1969. Meir was Israel's first, and so far only female Prime Minister, and only the third female leader in the world (after Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Indira Gandhi).

Meir resigned from the post in 1974 after the Agranat Commission published its findings on the Yom Kippur War, even though it had absolved her of any blame. Yitzhak Rabin took over, though he also resigned towards the end of the eighth Knesset's term after a series of scandals including the suicide of Housing Minister Avraham Ofer after a police investigation began into allegations he used party funds illegally, Asher Yadlin (the governor-designate of the Bank of Israel) being found guilty of accepting bribes and sentenced to five years in prison, and Rabin's wife, Leah, being found to have an overseas bank account, illegal in Israel at the time.

Menachem Begin became the first right-wing Prime Minister when his Likud won the 1977 elections, and retained the post in the 1981 elections. He resigned in 1983 for health reasons, passing the reins of power to Yitzhak Shamir.

After the 1984 elections had proved inconclusive with neither the Alignment or Likud able to form a government, a national unity government was formed with a rotating Prime Ministership - Peres took the first two years, and was replaced by Shamir midway through the Knesset term.

Although the 1988 elections produced another national unity government, Shamir was able to take the role alone. Peres made an abortive bid to form a left-wing government in 1990, but failed, leaving Shamir to rule until 1992.

Rabin became the Prime Minister for the second time when he led Labour to victory in the 1992 elections. After his assassination on 4 November 1995, Peres took over as Prime Minister.

During the thirteenth Knesset, (1992–1996,) it was decided to have separate elections for Prime Minister in a style similar to American Presidential elections. This was an attempt to deal with the increasingly fragmented nature of the Knesset, which had 13 parties with six seats or less as a result of the 1988 elections (though ironically the 1992 elections had produced a Knesset with only 10 parties, which alongside the 1973 and 1981 elections was a record low; this was largely as a result of a few parties merging). The aim was to give more power to the head of the government by freeing the position of dependency upon the support of minor parties in the Knesset, which had previously been used to bring down governments over relatively trivial matters.

The first Prime Ministerial election took place in 1996 alongside simultaneous Knesset elections. The result was a surprise win for Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud, after early results suggested Peres would win, prompting the phrase "went to sleep with Peres, woke up with Netanyahu." However, the Knesset elections produced a win for Labour, meaning that despite his theoretical position of power, Netanyahu had to rely on the support of religious parties to form a viable government.

Ultimately Netanyahu failed to hold the government together, and early elections for both Prime Minister and the Knesset were called in 1999. Although five candidates announced their intention to run, the three representing minor parties (Benny Begin of Herut – The National Movement, Azmi Bishara of Balad and Yitzhak Mordechai of the Centre Party) dropped out before election day, and Ehud Barak beat Netanyahu in the election. However, the new system had failed again, as although Barak's One Israel party (an alliance of Labour, Gesher and Meimad) won the Knesset election, they garnered only 26 seats, the lowest ever by a winning party, meaning that a coalition with six smaller parties was once again necessary.

In early 2001, Barak resigned following the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada. However, the government was not brought down, and only elections for Prime Minister were necessary. In the election itself, Ariel Sharon comfortably beat Barak, taking 62.4% of the vote. However, because Likud only had 21 seats in the Knesset, Sharon had to form a national unity government. Following Sharon's victory, it was decided to scrap separate elections for Prime Minister and return to the previous system.

The 2003 elections were carried out in the same manner as prior to 1996. Likud won 38 seats, the highest by a party for over a decade, and as party leader Sharon was duly appointed PM. However, towards the end of his term and largely as a result of the deep divisions within Likud over Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, Sharon broke away from his party to form Kadima, managing to maintain his position as Prime Minister and also becoming the first Prime Minister not to be a member of either Labour or Likud (or their predecessors). However, he suffered a stroke in January 2006, in the midst of election season, leading to Ehud Olmert become Acting Prime Minister in the weeks leading to the elections. He was voted by the cabinet to be Interim Prime Minister, days after the 2006 elections, after Sharon reached 100 days of incapacitation, that required an appointment of an Interim Prime Minister (the pre-election Government alway continues to govern until a new one is sworn in) becoming Israel's third Interim Prime Minister,just days before forming his own new Government, in the aftermath of the elections, to become the official Prime Minister of Israel.

If the Prime Minister dies in office, the Cabinet chooses an Interim Prime Minister, to run the government until a new government is placed in power. Yigal Allon served as Interim Prime Minister following Levi Eshkol's death, as did Shimon Peres following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

According to Israeli law, if a Prime Minister is temporarily incapacitated rather than dies (as was the case following Ariel Sharon's stroke in early 2006), power is transferred to the Acting Prime Minister, until the PM recovers (Ehud Olmert took over from Sharon), for up to 100 days. If the Prime Minister is declared permanently incapacitated, or that period expires, the President of Israel oversees the process of assembling a new governing coalition, and in the meantime the Acting Prime MInister or other incumbent minister is appointed by the Cabinet to serve as Interim Prime Minister.

In the case of Sharon, elections were already due to occur within 100 days of the beginning of his coma thus the post-election coalition building process pre-empted the emergency provisions for the selection of a new Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Olmert was appointed Interim Prime Minister on 16 April 2006, after the elections, just days before he had formed a government on 4 May 2006, to become the official Prime Minister.

Aside from the position of Acting Prime Minister, there are also Vice Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers.

A total of twelve people have served as Prime Minister of Israel, four of whom have served on two non-consecutive occasions. Additionally, one person, Yigal Allon has served solely as an Interim Prime Minister. The other two who have served as Interim Prime Minister have gone on to become the Prime Minister.

1 In 1965 Mapai merged with Ahdut HaAvoda to form the Labour Alignment, later renamed Alignment.

2 Eshkol died while in office. Yigal Allon briefly served as acting prime minister until he was replaced by Meir.

3 Rabin resigned and called for early elections in December 1976. After he was re-elected as the Alignment's leader, he resigned as candidate for the upcoming elections on 7 April 1977, but continued to serve as prime minister until Begin's first government was formed.

4 After the 1984 elections, Likud and the Alignment reached a coalition agreement by which the role of prime minister would be rotated mid-term between them. Shimon Peres of the Alignment served as prime minister for the first two years, and then the role was passed to Yitzhak Shamir. After the 1988 election Likud was able to govern without the Alignment, and Yitzhak Shamir became prime minister again.

5 Rabin was assassinated while in office. Shimon Peres served as acting PM until 22 November 1995.

6 On 21 November 2005, PM Sharon, along with several other ministers and MKs, split from Likud over the issue of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and negotiations over the final status of the West Bank. Sharon formed a new party, Kadima, which would go on to compete in the following elections of March 2006. Sharon continued as Prime Minister.

7 As the result of Ariel Sharon suffering a severe stroke on 4 January 2006, and being put under general anaesthetic, Ehud Olmert served as the Acting Prime Minister (Hebrew: ממלא מקום ראש הממשלה בפועל‎) from 4 January to 14 April, according to Basic Law: The Government: "Should the Prime Minister be temporarily unable to discharge his duties, his place will be filled by the Acting Prime Minister. After the passage of 100 days upon which the Prime Minister does not resume his duties, the Prime Minister will be deemed permanently unable to exercise his office." Basic Law: the Governmet 2001, section 16b In Sharon's case, this occurred on 14 April 2006, upon which Olmert became Interim Prime Minister.

8 Olmert officially resigned on 21 September 2008. With this his cabinet becomes an interim government, and he is the "interim" prime minister until the establishment of a new governing coalition (he is officially the prime minister, however, the government under him is an interim government, in this case).

As of September 2008, five former Prime Ministers were alive, the oldest being Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir also has the longest life span of any PM. The most recent to die was Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated on 4 November 1995. Ariel Sharon has been in a persistent vegetative state since his stroke on 4 January 2006.

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Israel's unilateral disengagement plan

Israel with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights

Israel's unilateral disengagement plan (Hebrew: תוכנית ההתנתקות Tokhnit HaHitnatkut or תוכנית ההינתקות Tokhnit HaHinatkut in the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law), also known as the "Disengagement plan", "Gaza pull-out plan", and "Hitnatkut") was a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted by the government on June 6, 2004 and enacted in August 2005, to evict all Israelis from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the northern West Bank.

Those Israeli citizens that refused to accept government compensation packages and voluntarily vacate their homes prior to the August 15, 2005 deadline, were evicted by Israeli security forces over a period of several days. The eviction of all residents, demolition of the residential buildings and evacuation of associated security personnel from the Gaza Strip was completed by September 12, 2005. The eviction and dismantlement of the four settlements in the northern West Bank was completed ten days later.

Hermesh and Mevo Dotan were included in the original disengagement plans, but were dropped from the plans in March.

These areas also contained numerous Israel Defense Forces (IDF) installations. Sharon said that his plan was designed to improve Israel's security and international status in the absence of political negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. About nine thousand Israeli residents within Gaza were instructed to leave the area or face eviction by the night of Tuesday August 16, 2005. .

Under the disengagement plan adopted on June 6, 2004, the IDF would have remained on the Gaza-Egypt border and could have engaged in further house demolitions to widen a 'buffer zone' there (Art 6). However, Israel later decided to leave the border area, which is now controlled by Egypt and the Palestinians, through the PNA. Israel will continue to control Gaza's coastline and airspace and reserves the right to undertake military operations when necessary. (Art 3.1). Egypt will control Gaza's Egyptian border. Israel will continue to provide Gaza with water, communication, electricity, and sewage networks (Art 8); existing customs arrangements with Israel — under which imports from Israel to Gaza are not taxed, exports from Gaza to Israel are taxed, and Israel collects customs duties on foreign products entering Gaza—will remain in force and the Israeli currency will continue to be used (Art 10).

Because the Palestinian Authority in Gaza does not believe it has sufficient control of the area at this time, foreign observers such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and various legal experts have argued that the disengagement will not end Israel's legal responsibility as an occupying power in Gaza. Israel and Egypt have concluded an agreement under which Egypt can increase the number of police on its side of the border, while the IDF evacuates the Gazan side. The text of the agreement is not yet public.

Despite disengaging, Israel demanded and has maintained full control over the Gaza Strip's airspace as well as the right to conduct military activity in its territorial waters.

Ariel Sharon first announced his plan at the 2004 Herzliya Conference, sponsored by the Institute for Policy and Strategy. Failing to gain public support from senior ministers, Sharon agreed that the Likud party would hold a referendum on the plan in advance of a vote by the Israeli Cabinet. The referendum was held on May 2, 2004 and ended with 65% of the voters against the disengagement plan, despite most polls showing approximately 55% of Likud members supporting the plan before the referendum.

Commentators and the press described the rejection of the plan as a blow to Sharon. Sharon himself announced that he accepted the Likud referendum results and would take time to consider his steps. He ordered Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz to create an amended plan which Likud voters could accept.

On June 6, 2004, Sharon's government approved an amended disengagement plan, but with the reservation that the dismantling of each settlement should be voted separately. The plan was approved with a 14-7 majority but only after the National Union ministers and cabinet members Avigdor Liberman and Binyamin Elon were dismissed from the cabinet, and a compromise offer by Likud's cabinet member Tzipi Livni was achieved.

Following the approval of the plan, it was decided to close the Erez industrial zone and move its factories to development towns such as Ashkelon, Dimona, Yeruham, and Sderot. This was claimed by some news sources to be for security reasons, possibly due to what a senior Palestinian security official admits to tens of Israeli soldiers and officers meeting their deaths in suicide bombings, shooting and Qassam rocket attacks there. Nevertheless, Ehud Olmert, then the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor, stated that the closing was part of Israel's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The closing was later responsible for a considerable increase in unemployment in the Gaza Strip.

As a result of the passing of the plan (in principle), two NRP (National Religious Party) ministers, Effi Eitam and Yitzhak Levi, resigned, leaving the government with a minority in the Knesset. Later, the entire faction quit after their calls to hold a national referendum were ignored.

Many on both sides remained skeptical of his will to carry out a withdrawal beyond Gaza and the northern West Bank. Sharon had a majority for the plan in the government but not within his own party. This forced him to seek a National Unity government, which was established in January 2005. Opponents of the plan, and some ministers, such as Benjamin Netanyahu and former minister Natan Sharansky, called on Sharon to hold a national referendum to prove that he had a mandate, which he refused to do.

On September 14, the Israeli cabinet approved, by a 9-1 majority, plans to compensate settlers who left the Gaza Strip, with only the National Religious Party's Zevulun Orlev opposing. The government's plan for compensation uses a formula that bases actual amounts on location, house size, and number of family members among other factors. Most families should receive between U.S.$200,000 and 300,000.

On October 11, at the opening of the Knesset winter session, Sharon outlined his plan to start legislation for the disengagement in the beginning of November. In a symbolic act, the Knesset voted 53-44 against Sharon's address: Labour voted against, while the National Religious Party and ten members of Likud refused to support Sharon in the vote.

On October 26, the Knesset gave preliminary approval for the plan with 67 for, 45 against, 7 abstentions, and 1 member absent. Netanyahu and three other cabinet ministers from Sharon's ruling Likud government threatened to resign unless Sharon agreed to hold a national referendum on the plan within fourteen days.

On November 9, Netanyahu withdrew his resignation threat, saying "In this new situation , I decided to stay in the government". Following the vote fourteen days earlier, and Sharon's subsequent refusal to budge on the referendum issue, the three other cabinet ministers from the Likud party backed down from their threat within days.

On December 30, Sharon sealed a deal with the Labor Party to form a coalition, with Shimon Peres becoming Vice Premier, restoring the government's majority in the Knesset.

On February 16, 2005, the Knesset finalized and approved the plan with 59 in favor, 40 opposed, 5 abstaining. A proposed amendment to submit the plan to a referendum was rejected, 29-72.

On March 28, the Knesset again rejected a bill to delay the implementation of the disengagement plan by a vote of 72 to 39. The bill was introduced by a group of Likud MKs who wanted to force a referendum on the issue.

On March 17, the IDF Southern Command issued a military order prohibiting Israeli citizens who do not reside in the Gaza Strip settlements from relocating to that area.

On August 7, Netanyahu resigned just prior to the cabinet ratification of the first phase of the disengagement plan by a vote of 17 to 5. Netanyahu blamed the Israeli government for moving "blindly along" with the disengagement by not taking into account the expected upsurge in terrorism.

On August 10, in his first speech before the Knesset following his resignation, Netanyahu spoke of the necessity for Knesset members to oppose the proposed disengagement.

On August 15, Sharon said that, while he had hoped Israel could keep the Gaza settlements forever, reality simply intervened. "It is out of strength and not weakness that we are taking this step", repeating his argument that the disengagement plan has given Israel the diplomatic initiative.

On August 31, the Knesset voted to withdraw from the Gaza-Egypt border and to allow Egyptian deployment of border police along the demilitarized Egyptian side of the border, revising the previously-stated intent to maintain Israeli control of the border.

On September 11, the cabinet reversed an earlier decision and decided not to demolish synagogues in the settlements. This enabled the IDF to complete its pullout that night, ending in the early hours of September 12, 2005. The Palestinian National Authority protested Israel's decision, arguing that it would rather Israel dismantle the synagogues. While Israel called on the PNA to protect former Jewish places of worship, Palestinian looters scavenged items from the rubble of former homes (destroyed by Israel before withdrawal) and burned and destroyed four of the synagogues. The Jerusalem Post reported that "Palestinian bulldozers began on Monday afternoon to knock down the synagogues left in the Gaza Strip".

On June 9, 2005, a poll on Israeli Channel 2 showed that public support for the plan had fallen below 50 percent for the first time.

On August 10, 2005, in response to calls from Jewish religious leaders, including former Chief Rabbis Avraham Shapira, Ovadia Yosef, and Mordechai Eliyahu, between 70,000 (police estimate) and 250,000 (organizers' estimate) Jews gathered for a rally centered at the Western Wall in prayer to ask that the planned disengagement be cancelled. The crowds that showed up for the rally overwhelmed the Western Wall's capacity and extended as far as the rest of the Old City and surrounding Jerusalem neighborhoods. The prayer rally was the largest of its kind for over 15 years, since the opposition to the Madrid Conference of 1991.

On August 11, 2005, between 150,000 (police estimates) and 300,000 (organizers' estimates) people massed in and around Tel Aviv's Rabin Square for an anti-disengagement rally. Organizers called the event "the largest expression of public protest ever held in Israel." According to a police spokesman, it was one of the largest rallies in recent memory.

On April 8, 2005, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Israel should consider not demolishing the evacuated buildings in the Gaza Strip, with the exception of synagogues (due to fears of their potential desecration, which eventually did occur), since it would be more costly and time consuming. This contrasted with the original plan by the Prime Minister to demolish all vacated buildings.

On May 9, the beginning of the evacuation of settlements was officially pushed back from July 20 to August 15, so as to not coincide with the Jewish holidays of the Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av, traditionally marking grief and destruction.

On July 13, Sharon signed the closure order of Gush Katif, making the area a closed military zone. From that point on, only residents who presented Israeli ID cards with their registered address in Gush Katif were permitted to enter. Permits for 24-48 hours were given to select visitors for a few weeks before the entire area was completely sealed off to non-residents. Despite this ban, supporters of Gush Katif managed to sneak in by foot through fields and bare soil. Estimates range from a few hundred to a few thousand people for those there illegally at that time. At one point, Sharon was ready to send in the border police (Magav) to remove non-residents, but decided against it because the manpower requirement would have been too great.

At midnight between August 14 and 15, the Kissufim crossing was shut down, and the Gaza Strip became officially closed for entrance by Israelis. The evacuation by agreement continued after midnight of the August 17 for settlers who requested a time extension for packing their things. The Gush Katif Municipal Council was threatening to make a unilateral declaration of independence, citing the Gaza Strip's internationally disputed status and Halacha as a foundation in order to quash the eviction attempts.

On August 17, the first forced evacuation of settlers, as part of the disengagement, commenced under Maj. Gen. Dan Harel of the Southern Command's orders. About 14,000 Israeli soldiers and police prepared to forcibly evict settlers and "mistanenim" (infiltrators). There were scenes of troops dragging screaming settlers from houses and synagogues, but with less violence than expected.

The August 19 Guardian reported that some settlers had their children leave their homes with their hands up, or wearing a Star of David badge, to associate the actions of Israel with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

On August 22, Netzarim's inhabitants were expelled by the Israeli military. This officially marked the end of the 38-year-long Israeli presence on the Gaza Strip, although demolition crews continued to work there, and the official handover was planned to occur some weeks later.

On August 23, the evacuation of the four West Bank settlements was accomplished; while the residents of Ganim and Kadim, mostly middle-class seculars, have long left their homes, several families and about 2,000 outsiders tried to prevent the evacuation of Sa-Nur and Homesh, who had a larger percent of observant population. Following negotiations, the evacuation was completed relatively peacefully. This ended, according to IDF commander-in-chief Dan Halutz, the first of four stages of disengagement: evacuation of residents, evacuation of civilian property, demolition of houses, and finally relocation of IDF installations. The date for official withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was set to September 10-20.

On September 7, the IDF announced that it planned to advance its full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to September 12, pending Israeli cabinet approval. It was also announced that in the area evacuated in the West Bank the IDF planned to transfer all control (excluding building permits and anti-terrorism) to the PNA - the area will remain "Area C" (full Israeli control) de jure, but "Area A" (full PNA control) de facto.

On September 11, a ceremony was held when the last Israeli flag was lowered in the IDF's Gaza Strip divisional headquarters. All IDF soldiers pulled out of the strip in the following hours. The last soldier left the strip and the Kissufim gate was closed in the early morning of September 12. This completed the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip.

The Yad La’achim operation (Hebrew: מבצע יד לאחים, “Giving hand to brothers") was an operation that the IDF performed during the disengagement plan. The operation has no relation to the counter-missionary organization of the same name.

The aim of the operation was to give the Gush Katif settlers the option to be removed voluntarily. The IDF soldiers helped the settlers by packing their things and carrying them. During the operation soldiers went into settlers' homes and gave them removal decrees. In addition the IDF arranged crews of social nurses, psychologists, and support to youths.

The unilateral disengagement plan has been criticized from various viewpoints. In Israel, it has been criticized by the settlers themselves, supported by the Israeli right, who saw Ariel Sharon's action as a betrayal of his previous policies of support of settlement. Conversely, Disengagement has been criticized by parts of the Israeli left, who viewed it as nothing more than a mode of stalling negotiations and increasing Israeli presence in the West Bank.

Within Israel, disengagement has been criticized heavily, both for its very execution, and for the manner in which it was executed.

From the very beginning, Sharon was accused of hijacking the mandate he received for a cause for which he had not been elected. In 2003, Sharon was elected over Labor Party chairman, Amram Mitzna. Mitzna ran on a platform that included a separation plan very similar to Sharon's Disengagement Plan. Sharon ran with an opposing platform, rejecting the idea of unilateral separation from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. At a certain point, Sharon even declared that Netzarim's fate was the same as Tel Aviv's. This is considered Sharon's major betrayal of the very people that elected him into office.

In the cabinet's initial June vote over the plan Benjamin Netanyahu, then Finance Minster, announced he would vote in favor of the plan only if Sharon promised to hold a national referendum to decide the fate of the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. Such a referendum was never held, in spite of Sharon's commitment.

Hopes for peace among many people were dashed when Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government and when Operation Summer Rains started less than a year after disengagement.

Some Israelis believe that the disengagement's aftermath is a disgrace. This view holds that Sharon was in such a rush to execute his plan that he did not plan accordingly for the residents that have since been evicted. Most of the former settlers were housed in hotels and guesthouses for the first few months, being threatened with further eviction numerous times. People were still residing in hotel rooms right up until Passover (in April) of 2006, more than eight months after losing their homes.

Another issue of contention is monetary compensation. As of April 2006, only a minimal cash advance has been given (approx. $10,000) to families to survive until they obtain new jobs, which has been difficult for most people, considering most of the newly unemployed are middle-aged and have lost the agricultural resources that were their livelihood. Those seeking restitution have also had to negotiate legal and bureaucratic hurdles.

This criticism received further support from the State Comptroller's, Micha Lindenstrauss, report, which determined that the treatment of the evacuees was a "big failure" and pointed out many shortcomings.

The future remains uncertain for the former settlers. While some have begun to find permanent housing, many remain in various forms of temporary housing. None of the settlers received their full compensation.

I strongly support courageous initiative to disengage from Gaza and part of the West Bank. The Prime Minister is willing to coordinate the implementation of the disengagement plan with the Palestinians. I urge the Palestinian leadership to accept his offer. By working together, Israelis and Palestinians can lay the groundwork for a peaceful transition.

The imminent Israeli disengagement from Gaza, parts of the West Bank, presents an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a return to the road map... To help ensure that the Gaza disengagement is a success, the United States will provide to the Palestinian Authority $50 million to be used for new housing and infrastructure projects in the Gaza.

As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today, it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.

While initially President Bush stated that "a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949" would be an "unrealistic" "outcome of the final status negotiations", the most recent position is that "changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to." Essentially, a Palestinian demand that Israel withdraw to the 1949 lines would become "the position of the United States".

I welcome the Israeli Prime Minister's proposals for disengagement from Gaza. This represents an opportunity to restart the implementation of the Road Map, as endorsed by the UN Security Council.

The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen (Ireland having Presidency of the EU at the time), announced the European Union's disapproval of the plan's limited scope in that it does not address withdrawal from the entire West Bank. He said that the EU "will not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties." However, Europe has given tentative backing to the Disengagement Plan as part of the road map for peace.

Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General, commended on August 18, 2005 () what he called Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s "courageous decision" to carry through with the painful process of disengagement, expressed the hope that "both Palestinians and Israelis will exercise restraint in this challenging period", and "believes that a successful disengagement should be the first step towards a resumption of the peace process, in accordance with the Road Map", referring to the plan sponsored by the diplomatic Quartet – UN, EU, Russia, and the United States – which calls for a series of parallel steps leading to two states living side-by-side in peace by the end of the year.

Israel has demonstrated that it has the requisite maturity to do what would be required to achieve lasting peace, and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has demonstrated their ability to discharge their mission with carefully calibrated restraint. Prime Minister Sharon should be commended for his determination and courage to carry out the disengagement in the face of forceful and strident internal opposition.

The PA, in the absence of a final peace settlement, has welcomed any military withdrawal from the territories, but many Palestinian Arabs have objected to the plan, stating that it aims to "bypass" past international agreements, and instead call for a complete withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Their suspicions were further aroused when top Sharon aide Dov Weisglass was quoted in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz on October 6, 2004, as saying that the disengagement would prevent a Palestinian state for years to come (see above).

This incident has bolstered the position of critics of the plan that Sharon is intentionally trying to scuttle the peace process. Israeli officials, including Weisglass, denied this accusation, and media critics have asserted that the Weisglass interview was widely distorted and taken out of context.

On August 8, 2005, Haaretz quoted a top Palestinian Authority religious cleric, Sheikh Jamal al-Bawatna, the mufti of the Ramallah district, in a fatwa (a religious edict) banning shooting attacks against Israeli security forces and settlements, out of concern they might lead to a postponement of the pullout. According to Haaretz, this is the first time that a Muslim cleric has forbidden shooting at Israeli forces.

On August 15, 2005, scenes of delight took place across the Arab world, following the long-ingrained suspicion that the disengagement would not take place.

Polls on support for the plan have consistently shown support for the plan in the 50-60% range, and opposition in the 30-40% range. A June 9, 2005, Dahaf Institute/Yedioth Ahronoth poll showed support for the plan at 53%, and opposition at 38%. A June 17, telephone poll published in Maariv showed 54% of Israel’s Jews supporting the plan. A poll carried out by the Midgam polling company, on June 29 found support at 48% and opposition at 41%, but a Dahaf Institute/Yedioth Ahronot poll of the same day found support at 62% and opposition at 31%. A poll conducted the week of July 17 by the Tel Aviv University Institute for Media, Society, and Politics shows that Israeli approval of the disengagement is at 48%; 43% of the respondents believe that Palestinian terrorism will increase following disengagement, versus 25% who believe that terrorism will decline.

On July 25, 2004, the "Human Chain", a rally of tens of thousands of Israelis to protest against the plan and for a national referendum took place. The protestors formed a human chain from Nisanit (later moved to Erez crossing because of security concerns) in the Gaza Strip to the Western Wall in Jerusalem a distance of 90 km. On October 14, 2004, 100,000 Israelis marched in cities throughout Israel to protest the plan under the slogan "100 cities support Gush Katif and Samaria".

On July 18, 2005, another nonviolent protest was held. The protest began in Netivot near Gaza. An independent media organization, WorldNetDaily, estimated that the crowd in Netivot numbered close to 70,000, most of whom walked to Kfar Maimon. The protest march ended July 21 after police prevented protesters from continuing to Gush Katif.

On August 2, 2005, another protest against disengagement began in Sderot with approximately 50,000 attendees.

A widely-publicized weeklong show of support for the disengagement attracted only tens of supporters. The supporters drove in a caravan through Israel, ending in Jerusalem. According to the organizer, there were at most seventy cars involved.

Orange ribbons in Israel symbolize opposition to the disengagement; it is the color of the flag of the Gaza coast Regional Council. Blue ribbons (sometimes blue-and-white ribbons) symbolized support for the disengagement and are intended to invoke the Israeli flag.

Polls in the U.S. about the question of the Gaza pullout produced varied results. One poll commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League, and conducted by the Marttila Communications Group from June 19–23, 2005 among 2200 American adults, found that 71% of respondents felt that the Disengagement Plan is closer to a "bold step that would advance the Peace Process" than to a "capitulation to terrorist violence", while 12% felt that the plan is more of a "capitulation" than a "bold step".

Another poll commissioned by the Zionist Organization of America, and conducted by McLaughlin & Associates on June 26, 2005 – June 27, 2005, with a sample of 1,000 American adults, showed U.S. opposition to the proposed disengagement. Respondents, by a margin of 4 to 1 (63% to 16%) opposed "Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from a section of Gaza and northern Samaria and forcing 10,000 Israeli Jews from their homes and businesses" and by a margin of 2.5 to 1 (53% to 21)%, agreed with the statement that "this Gaza Plan sends a message that Arab terrorism is being rewarded".

Some Arab Bedouins from the village of Dahaniya in the Gaza Strip were evacuated along with Jewish Israelis during the unilateral disengagement of 2005. They are considered by the Palestinians to be collaborators working for Israel, and fear for their lives if they stay there. They will be moved to Arad.

Dahaniya was constructed by Israeli authorities after the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai in 1979, to house Egyptian Bedouins evacuated from the Sinai region who had informed on their fellow Arabs during Israel's occupation there. Good relations with the Israelis allowed these Arabs to enjoy freedom of movement within Israeli areas in the Gaza Strip. Residents of the Jewish settlement of Kfar Yam referred to the Dahaniya community as their "neighbours." The village was also commonly known to both Palestinians and Israelis as the "village of traitors". Residents of Dahaniya had themselves requested that the Israeli military pull them out, claiming that without the presence of Israeli security forces to protect them, their lives would be in danger.

In March 2006, Avi Dichter suggested that a Kadima-led government, if elected, would seek to retain control over Kiryat Arba, the Jewish areas of Hebron, the Ofra bloc, and the Jordan Valley in addition to the main settlement blocs. The exact lines, he said, would be drawn by the government in consultation with coalition partners and settler leaders, but without input from the Palestinian side. The specific settlements he mentioned would be evacuated were Elon Moreh, Yitzhar, and Itamar around Nablus; Shilo on the central mountain ridge; Psagot overlooking Ramallah; Tekoa and Nokdim in the Judean Desert southeast of Bethlehem; and Pene Hever, Ma'on and Otniel south of Hebron.

After the Israel Lebanon conflict of 2006, Olmert announced to his cabinet that disengagement from the West Bank was no longer a high priority.

In September 2006, Shimon Peres suggested to Tony Blair that Hermesh and Mevo Dotan could be evacuated.

In December 2006, news reports indicated that a number of Palestinians were leaving the Gaza Strip, due to political disorder and "economic pressure" there.

In January 2007, fighting continued between Hamas and Fatah, without any progress towards resolution or reconciliation. The worst clashes occurred in the northern Gaza Strip, where Gen. Muhammed Gharib, a senior commander of the Fatah-dominated Preventative Security Force, was killed when a rocket hit his home. Gharib's two daughters and two bodyguards were also killed in the attack, which was carried out by Hamas gunmen.

At the end of January 2007, it appeared that a newly-negotiated truce between Fatah and Hamas was starting to take hold. However, after a few days, new fighting broke out. Fatah fighters stormed a Hamas-affiliated university in the Gaza Strip. Officers from Abbas' presidential guard battled Hamas gunmen guarding the Hamas-led Interior Ministry.

In May 2007, the deal between Hamas and Fatah appeared to be weaker, as new fighting broke out between the factions. This was considered a major setback. Interior Minister Hani Qawasmi, who had been considered a moderate civil servant acceptable to both factions, resigned due to what he termed harmful behavior by both factions.

Fighting widened to several points in the Gaza Strip with both factions attacking vehicles and facilities of the other side. In response to constant attacks by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched an airstrike which destroyed a building used by Hamas. Some Palestinians said the violence could bring the end of the Fatah-Hamas coalition government, and possibly the end of the Palestinian authority.

Today I have seen people shot before my eyes, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who wanted to take over my home. I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it's been.

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Israeli legislative election, 1977

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The Elections for the ninth Knesset were held on 17 May 1977. The dramatic shift in Israeli politics caused by the outcome led to it becoming known as "the revolution" (Hebrew: המהפך, HaMahapakh), a phrase coined by TV anchor Haim Yavin when he announced the election results live on television with the words "Ladies and gentlemen - revolution!" (Hebrew: !גבירותי ורבותי - מהפך, Gviroti veRevoti - Mahapakh!). Voter turnout was 78.2%, the highest level since 1965.

1 Shlomtzion merged into Likud, but Yitzhak Yitzhaky later broke away to form One Israel.

2 When Dash broke up, seven MKs founded Shinui, seven founded the Democratic Movement, and Assaf Yaguri founded Ya'ad.

3 Three Likud MKs broke away to form Rafi – National List, one later returned.

5 The Democratic Movement split up when three MKs founded Ahva and Yigal Yadin, Binyamin Halevi, Mordechai Elgrably and Shmuel Tamir left to sit as independents.

6 Zeidan Atashi and David Golomb defected from Shinui to the Alignment.

7 Moshe Dayan left the Alignment and formed Telem with two members of Rafi – National List and Shafik Asaad.

9 Saadia Marciano left the Left Camp of Israel and formed the Unity Party with independent MK, Mordechai Elgrably.

10 Yosef Tamir defected from Likud to Shinui, but then left to sit as an independent.

11 Development and Peace won enough votes for two seats, but was a one-man party.

The result of the 1977 election was a huge turning point in Israel's political history. For the first time, the left-wing lost an election, with the Alignment's share of the vote reduced by more than a third. This allowed the right-wing to take power for the first time since Israeli independence in 1948. The left's spectacular loss of power was attributed to three major causes; the disastrous Yom Kippur War in 1973, allegations of corruption and nepotism (such as the Dollar Account affair and the Yadlin affair), and a perceived favouring of Ashkenazi (European) Jews over Mizrahi Jews (from North Africa and the Middle East).

Also noteworthy was the emergence of Dash as the third largest party. However, once it became clear that Begin did not need them in the coalition (he still commanded a majority without them), the party broke up and disappeared as fast as it had appeared (ironically, one of its offshoots Shinui gained a sudden burst of popularity in the 2003 elections, also gaining 15 seats, before splitting up and losing them all in the next election).

Menachem Begin of Likud formed the eighteenth government on 20 June, 1977, including Shlomtzion, the National Religious Party, Agudat Israel, and the Democratic Movement for Change in his coalition. The government had 19 ministers, controversially including Moshe Dayan of the Alignment. This resulted in Dayan's expulsion from the party and him forming Telem. When Dash collapsed, many of its members went into opposition, but Begin retained a majority in the Knesset.

Aside from the spectacular fall of Dash, the controversial Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty which resulted in an Israeli withdrawal from Sinai were to blame for much of the upheaval within the eighth Knesset, especially the numerous breakaways from Begin's Likud. Indeed, Begin relied on opposition votes to pass the treaty in the Knesset as several party members, including future Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Shamir objected to it and abstained from voting.

Another notable event was the assassination of United Arab List MK Hamad Abu Rabia by the sons of party rival Jabr Moade after Abu Rabia allegedly refused to give up his seat as had been decided in a rotation agreement. Despite his sons' actions, Moade replaced Abu Rabia in the Knesset.

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Source : Wikipedia