HistoryWhile Theodore Herzl is credited as the founder of the modern Zionist Movement, it is Ze'ev Jabotinsky who must be recognized as the man who kept this noble ideal focused on its true goal: the re-establishment of Israel as an independent Jewish nation in its ancient homeland.
Chaim Weizman and the Labor party refused to clearly define that the Zionist goal was the establishment of the Jewish state. Their priorities were dominated by their constant fear of offending England and the Arabs. In stark opposition, Jabotinsky believed in clearly defined goals in order to achieve victory.
Jabotinsky openly rejected Weizman's idea of an autonomous Jewish government in Eretz Israel. He ruled the proposal of Ben-Gurion and the Labor party for a division of land between Jews and Arabs.
In 1931, the World Zionist Congress was convened. Jabotinsky anticipated that he would have a majority for his resolution to re-establish a Jewish State in Israel, which would serve as a haven and a stronghold for the Jews of the Diaspora. However, during the congress, a telegram arrived from Israel warning that if the resolution were passed, a massive pogrom would happen there. In response, many of the delegates withdrew their support for the creation of a Jewish State, and instead supported Ben-Gurion, who demanded that the resolution not be passed.
Jabotinsky, in reaction to the weak-kneed reaction by the Congress' delegates, tore his membership card in half, declaring that he and his followers were to leaving the WZO and establishing the New Zionist Congress, whose ideals were based on the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz Israel.
In time, it was discovered that the telegram was a forgery that was created with the sole intention of stopping Jabotinsky's rise to the leadership of the World Zionist Organization.
The New Zionist Organization (N.Z.O.) served as a home for all those who believed in the establishment of a Jewish State. In a short time, the underground movement which liberated Israel from the colonial control of England was born as a natural extension of the N.Z.O. After the State of Israel came into existence, the Herut Party was founded by the same core of Jabotinsky's followers.
From the start, Menachem Begin chaired the Herut Party. In the first Knesset, Herut had fourteen seats. Its original MK's were Begin, Uri Tzvi Greenberg, Yaakov Meridor, Shmuel Katz, Hillel Kook, Yohanon Bader, Chaim Landau, Esther Raziel-Naor, Eri Jabotinsky, Arieh Ben-Eliezer, Avraham Shmuel-Rekanati, Eliahu Lankin, Shmuel Merlin, and Maguri Cohen.
In the Second Knesset, Herut suffered a great defeat, only managing to get eight seats. This is attributed to the subject of Greater Israel becoming "irrelevant," causing many right wing voters to support the General Zionists, whose slogan was "Let us live in this land."
In the Third Knesset, Herut significantly regained its power as a result of Menachem Begin's campaign against German reparations. His heart-stirring speeches against the acceptance of "blood money" awakened the electorate to the honor and integrity (hadar v'tagar) that was the creed of Herut. Under the continuous leadership of Begin, Herut maintained its status as the third largest faction in the Knesset until it came to power in 1977.
In 1965, immediately prior to the election of the Sixth Knesset, a union was formed between Herut and the Liberal Party called "Gahal [Gush Herut Liberalim]." The result was the winning of 26 seats.
In late 1973, following the Yom Kippur War, preparations were made for the Eighth Knesset election. A number of small factions joined Gahal, creating the Likud Coalition. Likud won 39 seats in this election.
The year 1977 brought the collapse of decades of Labor Party dominance when Likud won 43 seats, giving Menachem Begin's party control of the government.
In 1981, Likud held 48 seats. Since then, its power has steadily declined.
In the '80's and 90's, there was a weakening of the traditional ideology of Herut. The ideal of a "Greater Israel" was abandoned by the party's leadership. Benyamin Netanyahu, a charismatic politician was elected under his platform of strengthening the nation. But it was quickly apparent that he did not have any ideological connection to the Herut Party of Jabotinsky. Netanyahu carried out the Oslo Accords, giving over Hebron, Israel's first capital (under King David), and the second holiest city of the Jewish people to the Palestinians.
In reaction to the signing of the Hebron Accord in 1997, a lobby of Knesset members was formed in opposition to Netanyahu called "the Land of Israel Front."
In 1998, Netanyahu and Arafat signed the Wye Accords. The essence of this treaty was the planned exchange of a large part of Israeli land in Judea and Samaria for the removal of several words from the so-called "Palestinian" charter. The Land of Israel Front succeeded in forcing Netanyahu to hold early elections, preventing his implementation of the treaty. The early election brought about the founding of the new Herut Party---The National Movement. This party, whose three founders are Michael Kleiner, Ze'ev Benyamin Begin, and David Re'em, revived this noble name with the intention of restoring dignity, honor and integrity to the Israeli government.
In 1999, the Fifteenth Knesset was elected. Likud earned only 19 seats. In an attempt to reinvent itself, the party took various politicians into its ranks. Likud abandoned any remnant of its ideological roots, instead reinventing itself under the banner, "Unity of the Nation." It became a party in search of an electorate, rather than leading the people to follow its (former) ideals.
When Jabotinsky spoke to our grandfathers in Europe and urged them to arm and train themselves, he was regarded by the masses as a troublemaker. When the Holocaust began, only then did people recognize his foresight. While he died in exile from his beloved Israel in 1940, Jabotinsky's remains could be returned to our holy land until after the death of Ben-Gurion, decades later.