Herut (Tnuat HaHerut — Freedom Movement) was an Israeli political party created in June 1948, soon after the establishment of Israel, by members of the Irgun Ẓeva'i Le'ummi on the basis of Ze'ev Jabotinsky's ideology. In 1949, the Revisionist Party of Israel, which had run independently in the elections to the First Knesset but had failed to pass the qualifying threshold, merged with the Ḥerut movement. At the same time, the Ḥerut Ha-Ẓohar Alliance was established by the Ḥerut and Ha-Ẓohar organizations in the Diaspora as their representative body in the World Zionist Organization.
In the elections to the first five Knessets the Ḥerut movement (Ḥerut for short) ran in an independent list. In the elections to the First and Second Knessets it came in fourth, with 14 and 8 seats respectively, but in the Third to Fifth Knessets it came in second after Mapai, with 15, 17, and 17 seats respectively. In 1958 there were early exploratory talks about a possible alignment with the Liberal Party, but it was only in 1965, before the elections to the Sixth Knesset, that such an alignment was realized in the form of Gaḥal, which ran as a list in the elections to the Sixth and Seventh Knessets. In the elections to the Eighth to Eleventh Knessets the Ḥerut movement ran within the framework of the Likud, together with the Liberal Party and others. In 1988 Ḥerut ceased to exist as a separate party upon the formation of the Likud party.
Until 1979 the Ḥerut Movement held national conferences every two or three years to elect its leaders, receive reports, and determine policy. Due to internal strife no conference was held until 1986, but when it finally met it was once again dispersed, meeting again the following year, and then disbanding after the Likud formally turned into a party in 1988.
Until the establishment of Gaḥal, Ḥerut was viewed as a right-wing party which maintained that the State of Israel should contain both banks of the River Jordan, and it would characteristically refer to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as "the so-called Hashemite Kingdom." It accused the Mapai-led government of following a defeatist policy vis-à-vis its neighbors, strongly criticized the policy of large-scale government intervention in the economy, but at the same time called for the institution of a national health insurance system and free schooling. Though it was highly critical of the Histadrut, in 1963 it established its own faction within the Labor-led trade union association, called Tekhelet-Lavan (Blue-White), which was the breeding ground for several future Likud politicians, including David Levy. Ḥerut strongly objected to the Restitution Agreement signed with the Federal Republic of Germany in 1952, while also objecting to the special Military Administration for Israeli Arabs based on Mandatory emergency regulations.
David Ben-Gurion refused to consider bringing Ḥerut (and the Communists) into the government, asserting that both were anti-democratic political movements, though it may be argued that in many senses Ḥerut played the role of a democratic watchdog over Mapai in the Knesset. The attitude to the Ḥerut movement in Mapai, and later in the Alignment, changed after Levi Eshkol became prime minister in 1963, and especially after the establishment of Gaḥal.
Except for a brief period after 1966, Menaḥem Begin was chairman of the Ḥerut movement from 1948 until 1983. After Begin's resignation he was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir, who presided over Ḥerut's complete merger with the Liberal Party in 1988. Other prominent leaders of the Herut movement included Yoḥanan Bader, Ḥayyim Landau, Shemuel Katz, Ya'akov Meridor, Shemuel Tamir, and Ezer Weizman. Closely associated with the Ḥerut movement was the Betar youth movement, the Ḥerut Women's Alliance, and the National Workers' Federation. The organ of the movement until 1966 was the daily Ḥerut.
Herut Hadasha was formed in 1998 under the leadership of Benny Begin. For the 1999 elections, Herut joined with Moledet and Tekuma to form Haichud Haleumit (the National Unity Party). In February 2000, Michael Kleiner announced that Herut was leaving Haichud Haleumit and would become its own party again. Herut won one seat in the 15th Knesset.
Source: Encyclopedia Judaica.