:"This article is about the political party. For other uses, see Herut (disambiguation)."Herut ( _he. חרות, "Freedom") was the major right-wing political party in Israel from the 1940s until its formal merger into Likud in 1988, and an adherent to Revisionist Zionism. It is not to be confused with Herut – The National Movement, a party which broke away from Likud in 1998.


Herut was founded by Menachem Begin in 1948 as the political successor to the Irgun, a paramilitary group in Mandate Palestine. The party's foundation was a challenge to the old and increasingly weakened Hatzohar party founded by Begin's late mentor, Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Nevertheless, Revisionist "purists" alleged that Begin was out to steal Jabotinsky's mantle and refused to defect from the old party.

The party also drew criticism, most famously when the New York Times published a letter to the editor signed by over two dozen prominent Jewish intellectuals on 4 December, 1948. The letter condemned Menachem Begin and Herut on the occasion of Begin's visit to New York City. Comparing Revisionist Zionism streams to "Nazi and fascist parties", the letter was signed by individuals including Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and Sidney Hook. The letter began:

:Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party”, a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

:The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents. [http://www.jfjfp.org/BackgroundN/einstein_et_al.htm New Palestine Party Visit of Menachem Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed] (Letter to the Editor) New York Times, December 4, 1948]

And it continues:: The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.

:Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.

Despite the criticism, in Israel's first elections, Herut won 14 seats, making it the fourth largest party in the Knesset, whilst Hatzohar failed to cross the electoral threshold of 1% and disbanded shortly thereafter. During the Knesset session the party lost two seats when Ari Jabotinsky and Hillel Kook left the party to sit as independent MKs.

The party was considered outside the mainstream, and renowned for its right-wing views, refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Jordan and frequently used the slogan "To the banks of the Jordan River" in claiming Israel's right to the whole of the West Bank. Begin also opposed many of the government's actions, including the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany of 1952, and encouraged civil disobedience during the debate on the affair.

The hostility between Begin and Israel's first Prime Minister and Mapai leader, David Ben-Gurion which had begun over the Altalena Affair was evident in the Knesset. Ben-Gurion coined the phrase "without Herut and Maki" (Maki was the Communist Party of Israel), a reference to the fact that he would include any party in his coalition other than those two.

The 1951 elections were a disaster for the party, as their support was almost halved, and they were reduced to just eight seats. In contrast, the 1955 elections were a big success, with the party almost doubling their seats tally to 15 and becoming the second largest party in the Knesset after Mapai. Together with Maki, they helped bring down Moshe Sharett's government in 1954 through a motion of no-confidence over the government's position on the trial of Malkiel Gruenwald, who had accused Israel Kastzner of cooperating with the Nazis.

Herut added another seat in the 1959 elections, gradually growing, feeding on feelings of resentment against the left, mainly among new Sephardi and Mizrahi immigrants. The party helped bring down the government again in 1961 when they and the General Zionists tabled a motion of no confidence over the Lavon Affair. They maintained its 17 seats in the 1961 election, and soon after joined with the Liberal Party (itself a recent merger of the General Zionists and the Progressive Party) to form Gahal (a Hebrew acronym for the Herut-Liberal Bloc (Hebrew: גוש חרות-ליברלים, "Gush Herut-Libralim")), though each party remained independent within the alliance. The merger also led to the formation of the Independent Liberals, a group of former Liberal Party members who disagreed with the merger (most of whom had been Progressive Party members).

In the early 1970s Gahal merged with the Free Centre, the National List and the non-parliamentary Movement for Greater Israel to create Likud, again with all parties retaining their independence within the union. Within Likud, Herut continued to be the dominant party. In the 1977 elections, Likud emerged victorious, the first time the right had won an election. Begin became Prime Minister, retaining his post in the 1981 elections. In 1983 he stood down, and Yitzhak Shamir took over as Herut (and therefore Likud) party leader and Prime Minister.

The party was finally disbanded in 1988 when Likud dissolved its internal factions to become a unitary party.

Herut – The National Movement

In 1998 Benny Begin (son of Menachem), Michael Kleiner and David Re'em broke away from Likud in protest at Benjamin Netanyahu's agreement to the Wye River Memorandum and the Hebron Agreement, which had ceded land to the Palestinians. They named their new party Herut – The National Movement, and tried to claim it as the successor to the original party. However, in reality it was a new and separate party.


External links

* [http://www.knesset.gov.il/faction/eng/FactionPage_eng.asp?PG=78 Party history] Knesset website en icon

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