LEVY, David

Born in 1937 in Rabat (Morocco) in a modest family, David Levy emigrated when he was 20 to Israel. He started sharing his time between joblessness and different jobs as agricultural worker and mason. After joining the Histadrut trade union (the only Israeli trade union, Labour-led), he embarked on a political career and was elected in 1969 to the Knesset for Herut (main component of the Likud at the time of its creation in 1973).

As a popular Sephardi politician, he contributed decisively to the success of the Likud in the 1977 legislative elections – Likud usually takes the Sephardi votes of the Israeli electorate -. Successively, he served as Minister of Immigrant Absorption (1977-1978), then Minister of Construction and Housing (1978-1990) – post which allowed him to supervize and encourage the Israeli colonization in the Palestinian territories -, and Foreign Minister for the first time from 1990 to 1992.

It was then that rivalry with Benjamin Netanyahu (then Deputy Foreign Minister who accompanied the Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid Conference) started. This rivalry increased in March 1993 when Netanyahu was elected to the presidency of Likud at the expense of Levy’s candidancy for the post. In June 1995, Levy decided to leave the Likud and create his own party, Gesher (Bridge) with his brother maxime Levy and a centre-left sephardim intellectual, the ex-mayor of Shlomo (a locality near the Lebanese border), yehuda Lancry, now israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

However, a late alliance with Likud (which was victorious in the May 1996 legislative elections) allowed Levy to be part of the coalition government (to which he brought the five Gesher seats in the Knesset) and was again appointed Foreign Minister. Despite this appointment, his ability to make his views prevail was hampered by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s will to be in firm control of the policy of Israeli-Palestinian relations with the assistance of his close advisor, Dore Gold. At the time of the formation of the government, David Levy urged Netanyahu to give a ministerial Portfolio to Ariel Sharon – his old ally with who he does not completely share the same political views – (the position of « Minister of National Infrastructure » was then specially created for Sharon). David Levy resigned from his position in January 1998.

Shortly after the signing of the Wye River Memorandum aiming at relaunching the peace process, he envisaged to reintegrate the governmental coalition but negotiations in this respect failed.

Following the elections of June 1999, he became again (for the third time) Minister for Foreign Affairs, this time in the new coalition government formed by Ehud Barak in July. He was also one of the three Deputy-Prime ministers of the Barak government.

In July 2000, he refused to take part in the Camp David negotiations and finally resigned on 2 August. The reason he gave for his resignation was the concession on Jerusalem which Mr Barak was ready to make to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Since then, the politician who once had an amazing political career ahead of him now seems to be fated to be limited to local politics. In particular, his electorate is now attracted to the Likud or to Arie Deri and Eli Yishai’s Shass party (Oriental orthodox party which drains the Sephardi votes, its traditional electorate).