LEVY, DAVID

LEVY, DAVID (1937– ), Israeli politician, member of the Knesset from the Seventh Knesset. Levy was born in Rabat, Morocco, receiving a traditional Jewish upbringing, studying at the Alliance school in Rabat. He immigrated to Israel in 1957 with his family, first living in a ma'barah and later settling in the northern development town of Bet Shean. As a young man Levy was employed in neighboring kibbutzim as a hired agricultural laborer, and then in construction, but was occasionally unemployed. In 1964 Levy was elected as the representative of the construction workers' union in the workers' council in Bet Shean, and the following year he was elected to the municipal council of Bet Shean and deputy mayor on behalf of the Ḥerut Movement . In 1966 he was elected as a member of the Executive and Center of Ḥerut. Levy was elected to the Seventh Knesset in 1969 on the Gaḥal list, and was viewed as one of the first authentic Oriental leaders to reach a prominent position in a major Israeli party. In 1971 he was elected chairman of the Blue-White faction, which was part of the Ḥerut Movement, in the Histadrut. In the elections to the Eighth to Fourteenth Knesset, and in the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset he ran on the Likud list. In the government formed by Menaḥem Begin after the political upheaval of 1977 Levy was appointed minister for immigrant absorption. In January 1979 he became minister of construction and housing, a position he held for the next 11 years, during which period 300,000 new apartments were built within the Green Line as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He was also the minister responsible for project renewal – an extensive project for the rehabilitation of distressed neighborhoods, carried out in around 100 towns and settlements by the Jewish Agency, with the cooperation of the local residents and Jewish communities abroad. In the years 1981–92 he also served as deputy prime minister, in Likud-led and National Unity governments. In the course of Operation Peace for Galilee Levy had reservations regarding the policy of Minister of Defense ariel sharon , and in 1985 was the only minister from the Likud to vote in the government with the Labor ministers for withdrawal from Lebanon, and thus was responsible for the withdrawal's being approved by the inner cabinet. Despite his moderate positions, Levy joined Sharon and yitzhak modai in 1989 in opposing the plan to hold elections in the West Bank and Gaza proposed by Prime Minister yitzhak shamir and Minister of Defense yitzhak rabin . He was appointed minister for foreign affairs in the narrow government formed by Shamir in June 1990, after the National Unity Government formed in 1988 was brought down in a vote of no confidence in March. Levy did not participate in the Madrid Conference of October–November 1991, since Shamir insisted on heading the Israeli delegation, and binyamin netanyahu was responsible for Israel's information campaign. As minister for foreign affairs Levy became the object of many ethnic jokes, but his popularity within the Likud was still significant. In the Likud leadership contest before the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset Levy placed his candidacy opposite Shamir's and gained 32% of the votes. However, in the primaries held for the Likud list only a handful of his supporters were elected, and he considered running on a separate list, but finally decided to remain in the Likud, even though a noticeable erosion began in his status within the party. In the Likud's leadership contest won by Netanyahu after the party's defeat in the 1992 elections, Levy came in second with 26.3%. Levy's ongoing failure to increase his power and influence in the Likud, and tensions with its Ashkenazi leaders, led him to break away from the Likud in March 1996 and form an ethnic parliamentary group called Gesher. After failing to raise sufficient funds to run independently in the elections to the Fourteenth Knesset, Gesher ran in a joint list with the Likud and Tzomet. In the government formed by Netanyahu after the elections Levy returned to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs but resigned in January 1998. In the elections to the Fifteenth Knesset Gesher ran in a joint list called One Israel with the Labor Party and Meimad, under the leadership of ehud barak . Once again he was appointed minister for foreign affairs, but in August 2000 Gesher broke away from One Israel and left the government. In the government formed by Sharon in March 2001 Levy was appointed minister without portfolio, and in the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset Levy once again ran within the framework of the Likud but was left out of Sharon's new government. In the course of the Sixteenth Knesset Levy joined the 13 Likud members who voted against the prime minister's Gaza disengagement plan and became one of the group's main spokesmen. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Avnery, David Levy (Heb., 1983). (Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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