Religious Zionists Seeking Reunification Amid Pressures of Blitz Elections (JEWISH PRESS) By: Yori Yanover 05/03/12)
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National Union Chairman MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh), during a House
speech on Wednesday in which he presented his bill to apply Israeli
sovereignty over settlements in Judea and Samaria, said: “Next week,
at a press conference shared by the Jewish Home and National Union
factions, we will announce, officially and together, that we’ll be
running jointly in the next election.”
The Jewish Home faction (Chairman Uri Orbach) with its three MKs
represents the old National Religious Party (NRP), which was formed
as a merger between Mizrachi and HaPoel HaMizraci, the two religious
Zionist movements. NRP, or Mafdal (its acronym in Hebrew)
participated in every Israeli coalition government until 1992.
The National Union with its four MKs was formed in 1999 by former
members of the right-wing, pro-settlement Moledet, Tkuma and Herut
parties. But Chairman Katz’s roots are in the historic NRP.
In a broad brush, today’s National Union represents the more right-
wing segment of the traditional Religious Zionist camp, while Jewish
Home is further to the left within the same camp.
Wedged between the two Haredi parties, United Torah Judaism (5 MKs)
and Shas (11 MKs) and the largely secular, Zionist factions to their
left, National Union and Jewish Home hope to attract a larger cut of
the vote than they would have running separately.
One group of voters they may be able to draw on are Likud activist
Moshe Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish leadership) followers, who
have seen their leader’s persistent attempts to influence their party
crashing against a powerful pro-Netanyahu apparatus. In the 2008
primaries, Feiglin collected enough votes to qualify for the 20th
spot on the Likud slate, high enough to enter
the Knesset—only to be outmaneuvered by the party leadership and
ending up at the 36th spot and outside the legislature.
“There is no dispute today that the national religious public is
leading in the fields of education, defense and settlement,” MK Katz
said from the Knesset podium Wednesday. “This huge public cries out
for a liaison between its representatives of all different shades and
colors in the Knesset, who are aspiring to the same goals and in
whose hearts is burning a love for the people of Israel, the Torah of
Israel and the land of Israel.”
“In the next Knesset,” the National Union Chairman vowed, “we will
bring this robust tradition as a double-digit faction into the
The reunion couldn’t come at a more difficult moment for both
factions and their particular slice of the voting public. The
settlement movement in Judea and Samaria is under an ongoing attack
by the left, by elements inside the Likud government, and by the
international community. And while decrees against individual
outposts are being blocked, the seemingly pro-settlement majority in
the Knesset and the government has been unable or unwilling to
introduce a radically pro-settlement policy.
The weakness of the religious Zionist camp is reflected in two polls
that came out this week, one published by Israel Today and the other
by Yedioth Aharonoth, in which the two factions either fared worse
than they had done in the last election or just held on to their
current numbers. In other words, running together they could only do
better than running separately.
In that vein, it was announced Wednesday that Jewish Home Chaiman Uri
Orbach is assembling a transitional team, together with the National
Union, in preparation for a united list in the September 4 election.
According to Orbach, “It shouldn’t be that the internal machinations
within each faction detract from the main goal – increasing the
united force of Religious Zionism in the Knesset.”
But it is unclear whether, despite their aspirations and best
intentions, both faction will manage to put together an accepted list
of candidates, much less agree on a campaign strategy and campaign
staff in time for what promises to be a politically charged summer.
Benjamin Netanyahu may have had bigger foes in mind—Avigdor Libeman,
Shelly Yachimovich, Shaul Mofaz, and Yair Lapid—when he decided to go
for an early election at the peak of his popularity, but,
inadvertently, he has also managed to make life very difficult for
these two smaller foes as well.
The Jewish Home faction is facing a procedural hurdle on the way to
the longed-for reunification, in the form of the NRP membership
census which was scheduled for this summer. The Jewish Home Knesset
faction still represents the historic Mafdal, whose own apparatus is
in charge of the party census and primaries. Getting their own
bureaucracy to speed up the works so that the primaries can be
conducted in time for the early election is turning out to be quite a
task for Orbach and his two Knesset partners.
Yesterday, Arutz 7 reported on a particularly terse note from Jewish
Home MK Zvulun Orlev to the chairman of the census and primaries
committee, Rabbi Danny Tropper, urging him to hurry the proceedings
and reminding him of Orlev’s countless warnings earlier this year,
that there’s going to be an early election and the party must work
fast to meet the challenge.
On the National Union side there appears to be a disagreement over
whether or not primaries are at all necessary, or should the
appointment process be deposited in the hands of the faction’s
trusted rabbinic guides.
In his response to Orlev’s urging, Rabbi Tropper suggested that the
very hurdles their movement is facing would create a renewed interest
on the part of potential voters. He may not be wrong on that count,
and traditional NRP voters may be willing to enlist in the effort to
galvanize a formidable Religious Zionist faction that would reclaim
the party’s historic 10 to 12 seat portion of the legislator. (© 2012
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