The Likud Party ("The Consolidation," in Hebrew) is a right wing political party in Israel founded by revolutionary leader Menachem Begin and was the first right-leaning party to lead the Israeli government. It is currently headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Likud started out as a group of both left and right-wing parties - including Herut, Liberal Party, Free Center, National List, and Labor Movement for Greater Israel - that united in 1973 just before the elections to the 8th Knesset. The party's electoral 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 former Etzel commander, 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.
Likud first came to power in 1977, in what would eventually be referred to as “the Upheaval,” an election that marked the first time since Israel's independence that a right-wing party would lead the government. As Prime Minister, Begin led the State to the historic peace agreement with Egypt, the bombing of the atomic reactor in Osiraq, Iraq and also oversaw the Israel Defense Forces during 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 his post 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. As Prime Minister, Shamir took part in the Madrid Peace Conference and also enthusiasticaly promoted the historic Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union and from Ethiopia in Operation Solomon.
Benjamin Netanyahu was elected to lead the Likud after Shamir’s retirement in 1993. Three years later, Netanyahu led the party to a sweeping electoral victory and became the ninth Prime Minister of the State of Israel.
In 1999, Netanyahu retired from politics and was succeeded by Ariel Sharon as party leader. In 2001, Sharon defeated then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the elections and returned Likud to power. During his term of office, Sharon led Operation Defensive Shield and ordered the construction of the security fence to help protect Israel from Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank. In summer 2005, Sharon forged ahead with his Gaza disengagement plan, and following a major split in Likud over the disengagement, Sharon left the party at the end of November 2005 to form the new Kadima Party.
After Sharon left, Netanyahu was once again made leader of Likud and returned the party to power in 2009. In October 2012, Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, announced that their parties would merge ahead of the January 2013 elections and would be called Likud Beiteinu.