(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It looks like there will be an election in Israel on September 4 after
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu formed a national- unity
government last week, putting an end to his own effort to initiate a September 4
But an election is currently set for that date in the
national-religious Habayit Hayehudi party. The race will pit Habayit Hayehudi’s
incumbent leader, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, against
his number two, MK Zevulun Orlev.
The race had been set for September 4
before the general election appeared to be advanced to that date. The party had
not yet gotten a chance to move up its contest after the process of initiating
early elections began, so the September 4 date has stuck, at least
Orlev will kick off the race by hosting a press conference
Monday afternoon in the national-religious bastion of Givat Shmuel. Orlev chose
that location in the center of the country when it appeared that the Knesset
would be dispersed. But now that the Knesset will have a regular Monday work
day, almost no reporters are expected to attend Orlev’s event, which he said it
was too late to move.
Habayit Hayehudi will run together with the more
rightwing National Union party in the next election in an effort to form a
larger national- religious party that could bring back thousands of kippa-clad
voters who have shifted to Likud.
“I think national-religious people
learned their lesson when they saw the Likud initiate a 10-month freeze in Judea
and Samaria, support haredi [ultra-Orthodox] religious court judges, enable the
disqualification of national-religious Rabbi Haim Druckman’s conversions, and
take action against outposts,” Orlev said.
“The Likud clearly lacks the
values of the national-religious. A big national-religious party can have
the most impact on key issues for the national-religious and for the entire
Herschkowitz’s campaign is also in full swing. His spokesman
said the minister is enjoying going to parlor meetings almost every night and
encouraging people to join his party.
A low-profile membership drive in
Habayit Hayehudi began two weeks ago. While both candidates said they want their
party to reach out to thousands of Englishspeaking national-religious voters who
the party has historically ignored, no ads have been taken in English
publications that thousands of the party’s potential members and voters
In order to make the drive more successful, Herschkowitz wants the
election postponed past September. Delaying the race could allow the
party to fend off a potential challenger.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, hi-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett,
considered running with Habayit Hayehudi, but after the relatively quick
election was initiated, he instead began the process of forming a new
nationalist Zionist party of religious and secular candidates.
has stalled the formation of the party and if the Habayit Hayehudi’s race is
delayed, he could be persuaded to run. He said he would make a decision soon –
only after his wife, who is nine months pregnant, gives birth.
Zionists people have to be facing outward, not inward,” he said.
of worrying about finding jobs in religious councils or money for their
neighborhood mikve, national-religious politicians should be interested in
leading Zionism. There are 40 mandates out there from nationalist Zionist people
who are not necessarily religious. They have to be pursued.”