Gahal ( _he. גח"ל, an acronym for "Gush Herut-Libralim" (Hebrew: גוש חרות-ליברלים), lit. "Herut-Liberals Bloc") was the major right-wing political party in
Israelfrom its founding in 1965 until it merged into Likudin 1973.
Gahal was formed by a merger of
Herutand the Liberal Party towards the end of the fifth Knesset in preparation for the 1965 elections. The merger brought together the only two right-wing parties in the Knesset, each with 17 seats at the time. The Liberal Party had only been formed in 1961 by a merger of the General Zionistsand the Progressive Party.
However, several former Liberal Party members were unhappy with the merger, identifying Herut and its leader,
Menachem Beginas too right-wing. As a result, seven MKs broke away from the Liberal Party during its merger with Herut to form the Independent Liberals, which later merged into the left-wing Alignment. Nevertheless, the new party went into the elections with 27 seats, just seven less than Mapai, the party which had dominated Israeli politics since independence (though it has to be noted that Mapai had been reduced in size due to a breakaway of 8 MKs led by David Ben-Gurionto found Rafi).
Led by Begin, in its first electoral test Gahal won 26 seats. However, it was outperformed by the Alignment (a new left-wing alliance of
Mapaiand Ahdut HaAvoda, possibly formed in response to the coalescence of the country's right-wing parties), which won 46 seats. The party was reduced in strength when three Gahal MKs broke away to form the Free Centre, and were later joined by another.
Six-Day War, Alignment leader and Prime Minister Levi Eshkolinvited the party to join a national unity government. The party remained in the government after the war, and kept its place when Golda Meirbecame Prime Minister after Eshkol's death in 1969.
In the 1969 elections, the party maintained its 26-seat strength, though was comprehensively beaten by the Alignment, who won 56, the best ever election performance by a party in Israeli political history. Nevertheless, it was invited back into a national unity government. However, Gahal pulled out of the coalition in 1970 after the government announced its support for the
Rogers Plan. Although the government later retracted its support, Gahal did not rejoin the coalition.
Before the 1973 elections, Gahal merged with several smaller right-wing parties, including its former breakaway, the Free Centre, the
National List(a small party founded by Ben-Gurion after he had left Rafi) and the non-parliamentary Movement for Greater Israel. The new party was called Likud, the Hebrew word for "Consolidation", as it was literally a consolidation of the right-wing in Israel.
Though it failed to overcome the Alignment in the 1973 elections, Likud comfortably won the 1977 elections, ousting the left from power for the first time in Israel's history.
* [http://www.knesset.gov.il/faction/eng/FactionPage_eng.asp?PG=68 Party history] Knesset website
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