(photo credit:Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Moledet faction announced Thursday that it would leave Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) party, after its representatives were "pushed out" of the recently formed group's Knesset candidate list a day earlier.
Habayit Hayehudi was formed last month as a merger of the National Religious, Tkuma and Moledet parties - the latter two of which had formed part of the National Union. On Wednesday, Habayit Hayehudi's 38-member public committee gave Tkuma one representative - MK Uri Ariel - in the first 10 spots on the list, and Moledet chairman MK Benny Elon was pushed back to No. 17.
In the aftermath, Elon announced on Thursday that he was retiring from politics, and that Moledet would run on a joint list with MK Arye Eldad's new secular, right-wing Hatikva Party in February's election.
"We drew up an agreement between the three parties that featured three basic principles, all of which were violated," said Uri Bank, a Moledet member who was born in Detroit and raised in Chicago. He had also been slated to be on Habayit Hayehudi's list, but wasn't.
"The first issue is that we had said, from the beginning, that if Moledet was going to be involved, there had to be two spots reserved out of the first 10 for secular representatives, which was not done," Bank said.
"The second part of the agreement, which was written in black and white, was that there would be two spots out of the first 10 reserved for women as well. This also was not done.
"The third principle of the agreement was that the chairmanship would be decided by primary, and that was thrown out three weeks ago," Bank said.
He also expressed his faction's disillusionment with Elon's placement at No. 17.
"They basically showed him the door," Bank said.
But as far as reasons for the dramatic shift in Habayit Hayehudi's candidate list, Bank said it remained unclear.
"Some people are saying that this was a hostile takeover by the NRP faction," he said. "There's a good representation of NRP on the list, with [NRP chairman Zevulun] Orlev at No. 2. But there are other possibilities as well. It's hard to say at this point."
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya'acov Amidror, who heads the public committee that drafted the Knesset list, stood by the candidates' placements, saying, "The committee chose a great team from the religious Zionist and traditional public that is going to fight for the Jewish education and character of the state."
The far-right Eretz Yisrael Shelanu party, led by Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo and Baruch Marzel, issued a statement citing the "violations" of agreements by the NRP and the National Union, and calling the Knesset candidates "an NRP list that will not fight for the Land of Israel."
Given Moledet members' feelings of betrayal, Bank said his faction had very little choice but to split from Habayit Hayehudi altogether.
"It was clear all the way through that all three parties were sticking out their proverbial necks by joining this party," Bank continued. "And Moledet, including Elon, [candidate] Alex Epstein and myself, were all pushed out. It's as if they said, 'Thanks for your name, now we don't need you.'"
Still, "it might have been NRP and it might not have been," Bank said. "What's important is the outcome, and that the committee violated every principle they had pledged to hold to. [Habayit Hayehudi] has become a party that was born of sin, and on a public level, it's not going to bode well for them."
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