Nuclear physics and Israeli politics
I learned from my late father Dr. Israel Eldad that in politics, anytime someone raises the banner of unity, you should look for the division behind it.
Jerusalem Day celebrations Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
On October 18, “Religious Zionism” celebrated (replete with orange and blue
balloons) the announcement of a joint list for the Knesset elections, the fusion
of the National Union and the Jewish Home parties.
Long ago, I learned
from my late father Dr. Israel Eldad that in politics, anytime someone raises
the banner of unity, you should look for the division behind it. That is what
happened when the kibbutz movement split some 60 years ago. Kibbutz Ashdot
Yaakov split into two: one called itself Ihud (Union) and one called itself
Meuchad (United). It was the same in Ein Harod. When the divisions spread to
other kibbutzim, another kibbutz movement was formed and called – how could it
be otherwise? – Ihud HaKvutzot VeHaKibbutzim, the Union of Groups and
Religious Zionism has also had its share of
fissures. Some were ethnically inspired, such as Aharon Abuhatzeira’s
establishment of the Sephardi-based Tami party in the 1980s and, later, the
preference of many voters for Shas. Some were ideologically inspired, mostly
dividing those supporting Israel’s control of “Greater Israel” and those
adopting the more pragmatic line of the National Religious party, which
regularly sat in governments led by the Left.
THE FIRST such break
occurred when Hanan Porat joined Professor Yuval Ne’eman and Geula Cohen to
establish the Tehiya party, in protest over the Camp David Accords with Egypt;
afterwards, Haim Drukman had to leave for the same reason, but he set up another
party, Morasha, before returning several years later to the NRP.
sounds like a soap opera, it gets worse. Hanan Porat also returned to the NRP a
few years after he left, only to bolt again in 1999, when he helped establish
the Tekuma party. Effi Eitam and Rabbi Yitzhak Levy left the NRP to protest its
sitting in Ariel Sharon’s government while he disengaged from Gaza. They set up
a party called “Renewed National Religious Zionism,” which later merged with the
National Union and then, still later, with the Likud.
As is clear, each
split led to attempts to reunite, renewed splits and so on. Ideological and
personal conflicts compete with the desire for unity; fission with fusion.
Behind all these attempts at unity lies a serious question: Is the knitted
yarmulke a political common denominator? Is a head covering more relevant or
powerful than the social and political ideas in the head wearing it? The
National Union faction that served in the 18th Knesset was comprised of several
parties: Tekuma, represented by MKs Uri Ariel and Ya’acov Katz; Eretz Israel
Shelanu, whose representative is Dr. Michael Ben-Ari; and HaTikvah, which I
represent. When the National Union attended the ceremony marking its merger with
the Jewish Home, only half of its MKs were present and only one of its parties.
Behind the declaration of unity was division. MK Ben-Ari and I were not
“Religious Zionism” preferred a narrow sectarian list to a wide
one that would include all those loyal to Eretz Israel. A poll by Dr. Mina
Zemach of over 2,100 people, 1,100 of whom represented voters of the Right and
who were questioned in depth, revealed that if half the National Union runs
together with the Jewish Home, the joint list will win four to five seats. If MK
Ben-Ari and I run together, we will win three seats. The representatives of
“Religious Zionism” did not include us in the merger because they knew they
would have to apportion us places on the party’s list based on our relative
I would not burden the reader with all these details (which I
find somewhat boring, I confess) if it were not for one important fact that the
poll reflects: the number of undecided voters on the Right is small. Not many
are wavering between the various right-wing parties. So this is a zero-sum game
where the only way to profit politically, socially, and in terms of policy is to
merge into a larger whole.
RELIGIOUS ZIONISM’S misanthropic withdrawal
into a narrow sectarian list will not inspire tens of thousands of people who
wear yarmulkes and vote Likud to leave the Likud to vote for a National
Such voters have decided that they want a general,
inclusive party that will promote various goals. The common denominator that
should unite all the members of the nationalist camp should be unequivocal
support for Eretz Israel and total opposition to a Palestinian state west of the
Jordan River (as far as I am concerned, there already is a Palestinian state in
Jordan, and we do not need another one. When the Hashemite Kingdom falls, Jordan
will change from a kingdom to a Palestinian state, whether or not we want it
Not for nothing are Jews known as the fathers of modern nuclear
physics. The talents embedded in the Jewish people are able to divide atoms into
small basic particles. But does our people also know the secret of fusion?
Bringing particles together frees great amounts of energy. Can this happen on
the Israeli Right? Will common sense prevail? Will the results of the polls
convince the different potential partners or will they continue to live within
their illusions? Will they continue to dream of 15 seats coming their way when
all the yarmulke wearers “come home”? We will find out at midnight on December
6, the deadline for the submission of party lists for the upcoming
The writer is a Knesset Member and a professor.