The right-wing Likud party has emerged as the apparent winner in yesterday's (17 May) general election in Israel.
The right-wing Likud party has emerged as the apparent winner in yesterday's (17 May) general election in Israel. This means that its leader, Mr. Menachem Begin, will probably be asked to form a cabinet. He has called on other parties to join him in a government of national unity.
SYNOPSIS:Mr. Begin has tried eight times before to wrest power from the ruling Labour Party. At his ninth attempt he has succeeded.
The Polish-born lawyer founded the right-wing Herut, or Freedom, Party in 1948 -- the year of Israel's independence. He merged it with two other right-wing splinter groups in 1973 to form the present Likud, or Unity, Party. He is now 63.
In 1967, just before the Six-Day war, Mr. Begin joined a coalition government, as Minister without Portfolio. He stayed on when Mrs. Meir succeeded to the Premiership in 1969 -- but resigned a year later in protest against the United States Middle East peace plan. He thought it amounted to a wholesale withdrawal from territory occupied in the Six Day war.
In visiting London in 1972, he made peace with an old enemy. For as a young man, Menachem Begin had been commander of Irgun Zvai Leumi, the guerrilla organisation which fought for Israel's birth against the British authorities in Palestine. He was then described as "the most wanted man in Palestine", with a price of 10-thousand pounds sterling (17,000 U.S. dollars) on his head.
During the Kissinger negotiations, he fought determinedly against Israel's agreeing to give up territory. He denounced the interim agreement with Syria:
His personal appearances in the recent election campaign have been limited, because he had a heart attack two months ago, but he was in good form in a television debate with the Labour leader, Mr. Peres, two days before the polls.
The electors do not seem to have been deterred by his past reputation as a 'hawk'. And Mr. Begin himself said that the first act of any government he headed would be to call on the Arab leaders for immediate peace talks. "All of Israel", he said, "is striving for peace".