Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's announcement that he is leaving the Likud Party, in which he had been a member for close to 30 years, is representative of the party's turbulent history. October 1973 In preparation for the 1973 general elections, four conservative parties, Gahal (Gush Herut Liberalim), Free Center, State List, and the Movement for a Greater Israel join together to form Likud, a Hebrew word signifying "unity." Menachem Begin, head of Herut, becomes its first leader. Retired Gen. Ariel Sharon is instrumental in assisting the creation of the party and was elected on its list, but soon thereafter resigned his seat. December 26, 1973 Likud wins 39 seats in elections for the Knesset. May 17, 1977 Led by Begin, the Likud wins 43 seats in the election for Knesset, the most of any party. This marks the first time that a right-wing government came to power in Israel's history. Additionally, when Sharon's new Shlomzion party wins two seats in the elections, it merges with the Herut faction of Likud and Sharon becomes minister of agriculture. September 17, 1978 Prime Minister Begin signs historic peace agreement with Egypt, the first Arab country to recognize Israel. June 30, 1981 The Likud stays in power, winning 41 seats in the Knesset. June 6, 1982 After a series of artillery attacks launched by the Palestine Liberation Organization against populated areas in northern Israel, Begin, with Sharon as Defense Minister, decides to invade Lebanon. September 16, 1983 Facing strong criticism and disappointed by mounting casualties in Lebanon, Begin resigns as leader of the Likud and prime minister. Yitzhak Shamir replaces him. July 23, 1984 The Likud gets 41 Knesset seats in new elections and forms a coalition government with the Labor Party. Begin and Labor's Shimon Peres rotate positions as prime minister. November 1, 1988 The Likud gets 39 seats in new elections, and continues the coalition government with Labor. March 1990 The arrangement with Labor breaks down and the Likud forms a new government with the help of religious parties. June 23, 1992 The party presence is reduced to 32 seats in the Knesset. The party loses power to Yitzhak Rabin's Labor, and Binyamin Netanyahu becomes its new leader. May 29, 1996 Reflecting security concerns about the Oslo peace process after a series of suicide bombings earlier in the year, Netanyahu wins the first direct elections of the prime minister, with 50.4% against 49.5% for Labor's Shimon Peres. The Likud wins 32 seats. May 17, 1999 Likud loses the prime ministerial elections when Labor candidate Ehud Barak wins 56% of the vote against Netanyahu's 44%. The Knesset elections were even more dramatic, with the Likud dropping to 19 seats. Ten days later, Netanyahu resigns as leader of the Likud party, and Ariel Sharon becomes its new leader. February 6, 2001 After talks break down between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on final status negotiations, and an explosion of Palestinian violence, Sharon gets 62.6% of the votes to 37.4% for Barak in a special election for prime minister. May 12, 2002 Stemming from a proposition of Netanyahu, and against the advice of Sharon, the Likud party votes against the acceptance of a Palestinian state under all conditions. January 29, 2003 Sharon's Likud wins 40 seats in the Knesset. May 25, 2003 Sharon's cabinet votes to approve, with reservations, the US "road map to peace." The decision marks the first time an Israeli government has formally adopted a plan calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state. A day later, Sharon states that the "occupation" of Palestinian territories was "a terrible thing for Israel and for the Palestinians" and "can't continue endlessly." Sharon's words, to that point unprecedented in right-wing ideology, prompted shock from many in Israel and within the Likud, leading to a clarification that by "occupation," Sharon meant control of millions of Palestinian lives rather than actual physical occupation of land. June 03, 2003 Sharon meets US President George W. Bush, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan King Abdullah II in a Middle East peace summit in Aqaba, Jordan. August 2005 Citing the need to separate from the Palestinians, Sharon's government, in a coalition with the Labor Party, unilaterally withdraws Israeli civilians and army personnel from the Gaza Strip. Four settlements in northern Samaria are also dismantled. November 21, 2005 Reflecting a split in the party resulting from the withdrawal, Sharon announces that he is leaving the Likud to form a new party in preparation for the March 2006 elections. Fourteen Likud MKs leave with him.