Veteran MK Zevulun Orlev surprised the national-religious establishment Wednesday when he announced that he would not run for his fourth term in the Knesset if he does not win the September 4 race for head of Habayit Hayehudi against incumbent Daniel Herschkowitz.

“If I am not elected to the leadership, I will find ways to contribute but not in the Knesset,” Orlev said at at Knesset press conference, in which he criticized Herschkowitz and former National Religious Party head Effi Eitam.

“Over the past few years, there is a feeling that we became addicted to finding stars to head our list of candidates,” Orlev said. “There is nothing wrong with adding new people to the list. But parachuting new leaders every time brings the party down. A party is not a reality show, where the next pretty face wins. It must be connected to our values and roots.”

Herschkowitz responded by mocking Orlev, suggesting that his rival’s entire press conference could be summarized with a headline that Orlev would not be in the next Knesset.

Orlev was first elected to the Knesset in 1999. He served as social affairs minister from 2003 to 2004 and is a former director-general of the Education Ministry and the Religious Services Ministry.

Habayit Hayehudi will run together with the National Union in the next election. While National Union leader Ya’acov Katz said he expects to lead the list, Orlev said that since the Habayit Hayehudi will be elected in a primary and the National Union chairman is chosen by rabbis, it makes sense that the Habayit Hayehudi chairman will head the joint list.

Orlev said he hoped former Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria director- general Naftali Bennett would decide to run for Knesset with Habayit Hayehudi. He also expressed interest in running together with MK Haim Amsalem, who left Shas and formed a party called Am Shalem.

“Anyone who agrees with the religious Zionist outlook can be part of our list,” he said. “Rabbi Amsalem has expressed views over the past two years that fit the values of religious Zionism.”

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