The Rise Of The Likud Party

Adam Fitzgerald
7 min readDec 14, 2019


The period, 1996 Israel. The single most important election for Prime Minister was commencing, with Labor Party and current Prime Minister Shimon Peres running against a recently burgeoning underdog, Likud Party member Benjamin Netanyahu. Most experienced Israeli party members expected Peres, the unmoved stoic face for Arab-Israeli’s, to win comfortably. As the ending of the election drew near however, a sudden rise in votes was flooding in for Netanyahu. Those votes came from a very unlikely source, the Jewish Haredi (Orthodox). May 29, 1996 the votes were finally counted, and in the closest race for Israeli prime Minister ever held, Benjamin Netanyahu won 50.5%-49.5%…But the Labor Party would still have the majority of the seats in the Knesset for now, 34 (labor) — 32 (Likud). But the Arab world was left stunned by the results. Alongside his Likud–Gesher–Tzomet alliance, Netanyahu formed a coalition with Shas, the National Religious Party, Yisrael BaAliyah, United Torah Judaism and The Third Way, with 18 ministers.

The demise of Shimon Peres can be detailed in the months prior to the election. With tensions rising between the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and the Israeli military (IDF) and it’s domestic intelligence agency (Shin Bet), the attacks upon civilians grew exponentially in the ensuing months of 1996. Starting with a suicide bombing and a pipe bombing in the cities of Jerusalem and Ashkelon. With 77 wounded and 25 killed, the IDF began a severe counter-attack in the Gaza Strip.

“Immediately after the bombings, Mr. Peres closed Israel to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and suspended all contacts with the Palestinian Authority until after the funerals for the victims. But he also vowed at a news conference to continue with negotiations toward a full peace with the Arabs, saying, “We will cope with the pain and suffering, and we will continue with the only way we have, to which there is no alternative”. Among the first to call Mr. Peres and offer condolences was Yasir Arafat, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority. “This is not a military operation,” Mr. Arafat told reporters. “This is a terrorist operation. I condemn it completely. It is not against only civilians, but against the whole peace process.”

April 1996 Operation Grapes Of Wrath, an Israeli military operation carried out by the IDF to end an assault by Hezbollah in Lebanon.On April 14, a Hizballah spokesman told the Reuter news agency in Beirut: “We are firing dozens of Katyusha rockets into Zionist settlements. The northern settlements will be hit continuously and heavily and we will transform northern Israel into hell.” The operation took 16 days to complete, with the United Nations overseeing the escalation…Hezbollah and the IDF began a cooperative cease-fire, in the end 25,000 Israel civilians were displaced and 400,000 Lebanese civilians also displaced. Incidentally the deaths of civilians in Operation Grapes of Wrath and in particular at Qana have been cited by Al-Qaeda as motivations for its actions and policies towards the United States of America.

Growing distrust began formulating inside the Israeli homeland against Shimon Peres, believing he was too “lenient” when confronting Hezbollah and Palestinian attacks. The right wing Likud Party mounted a political offensive starting mid year, the Arab minority in West Bank however desperately tried to get Peres enough momentum to counter the growing resentment in the Lubavitch communities. With a new prime minister in Israel, the United States Neoconservatives saw a chance to implement a new strategy concerning their Right Wing ally and his neighbors in the Middle East. It was here in this document which saw the beginning of the Neoconservative-Zionist movement make a radical change in the geo-strategy for the Middle East and Israel. Written by Richard Pearle, Douglas Feith, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Jonathan Torop, David Wurmser, Meyrav Wurmser, and IASPS president Robert Loewenberg. The document was called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. And it defined to implement new security strategies for Israel to implement Western ideals for the region. The introduction started out with 3 new policies:

1. Rather than pursuing a “comprehensive peace” with the entire Arab world, Israel should work jointly with Jordan and Turkey to “contain, destabilize, and roll-back” those entities that are threats to all three.

2. Changing the nature of relations with the Palestinians, specifically reserving the right of “hot pursuit” anywhere within Palestinian territory as well as attempting to promote alternatives to Arafat’s leadership.

3. Changing relations with the United States stressing self-reliance and strategic cooperation.

However Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the policies set forth by the plan. But the declarations set forth by the signers (Pearle, Feith etc.) took on elevated positions in the U.S. government and used some of the directives to implement policies in the Middle East years later (Iraq War 2003). Years later, the directive for the plans to control Middle East policy came to fruition. As told by NY Times reporter Ian Buruma in 2003 in his article “How to talk about Israel”:

“What we see, then, is not a Jewish conspiracy, but a peculiar alliance of evangelical Christians, foreign-policy hard-liners, lobbyists for the Israeli government and neoconservatives, a number of whom happen to be Jewish. But the Jews among them — Perle, Wolfowitz, William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, et al. — are more likely to speak about freedom and democracy than about Halakha (Jewish law). What unites this alliance of convenience is a shared vision of American destiny and the conviction that American force and a tough Israeli line on the Arabs are the best ways to make the United States strong, Israel safe and the world a better place.”

1997….Israeli spies have slowly infiltrated the military industrial complex which had profound effects to it’s domestic intelligence. David A. Tenenbaum a mechanical engineer for the Army’s Tank, Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Mich had been divulging unclassified documents to every Israeli liaison officer assigned to his workplace over the last 10 years. The F.B.I. said Mr. Tenenbaum had admitted that he had ‘’inadvertently’’ given information to the Israeli officers and to Reuven Granot, the scientific deputy director of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. He also admitted that he had taken documents labeled ‘’for official use only’’ and ‘’secret’’ to his home. he would not be formally charged with a crime however but was instead put on “administrative leave”. Israeli Intelligence spies would also put a tap on Monica Lewinsky’s calls to then U.S. President, Bill Clinton, listening to sexual explicit calls. After being told by White House aides his calls were being taped, Clinton told Lewinsky not to call anymore. Meanwhile Martin Indyk , U.S. Ambassador to Israel, would complain to Israeli Government about the heavy handed Israeli spying that exists inside the United States.

Israeli-Palestine conflict continues to rage as numerous attacks by the IDF and Hamas saturate the tumultuous landscape. A Palestinian suicide bomber kills 49 at a cafe, called the Cafe Apropo Bombing. This leads to retaliatory strikes which kills scores of Palestinians in West Bank during the summer months, usually children are hit in the crosshairs of rifles by IDF soldiers. Which predictably lead to strikes by Palestinians. This repetitive nature would saturate the region over the years.In September of 1997, two Mossad agents attempt to assassinate Hamas Jordanian branch leader, Khaled Mashal, in Jordan by way of toxin in his ear canal. They are arrested, and as Israeli diplomats try to negotiate his release they must release Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin and also give the antidote of the toxin to Mashal. Meanwhile in Israel Benjamin Netanyahu is under a tumultuous administration, many Likud members have grown dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s decision to implement lieutenants inside the government as he tries to consolidate the Conservative Party in the Knesset. Many in the Likud party would be wary of Netanyahu during the final months of the year. ‘’Netanyahu might survive attempts to oust him in Knesset no-confidence votes,’’ wrote the columnist Hemi Shalev in Maariv, ‘’but in terms of political performance, it will be hard for him to function when everyone around him wants his head.’’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s time was running out. But he never wavered even under heavy scrutiny from the religious sector. Ehud Barak, the leader of the main opposition Labor Party, was Netanyahu’s main contender in this election and he knew he had the backing of the depleted Likud Party, which was thoroughly behind Netanyahu for the last 3 years. The rising death toll and lack of military victory in Israel’s long-running occupation in south Lebanon had soured voter support for the Likud policy. On May 17th, 1999 Barak won the Prime Ministerial election comfortably, his One Israel alliance won only 26 seats, meaning he had to form a convoluted coalition with Shas, Meretz, Yisrael BaAliyah, the Centre Party, the National Religious Party and United Torah Judaism. Barak gave a campaign promise to end Israel’s 22-year-long occupation of Southern Lebanon within a year.

The Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, appoints an Israeli public committee (Tal Committee), headed by the retired judge Tzvi Tal, to deal with the special exemption from mandatory military service in the Israel Defense Forces given to Israeli Ultra Orthodox Jews in which massive protests begin almost immediate from the Haredi Jewish groups whom protest the decree. The law authorities a continuation of the exemption to yeshiva students subject to the conditions within the law. According to the law, at the age of 22, Yeshiva students have a “decision year” and can choose between one-year civilian national service alongside a paying job or a shortened 16-month military service and future service in the reserves as an alternative to continuing to study. By then Barak would continue to make his mark and has the full support of the Israeli public. Netanyahu however would continue to work behind the scenes, and the fringe right wing “Likudniks” would expound on their relationship with the Neocon’s in the White House by 2000. The politics of both Israel and the United States would witness a more vigorous change never before seen in the world, and their victims?

The Arab world, aside from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Partners.



Adam Fitzgerald

Geo-political scientist/researcher into the events of September 11th 2001.