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(photo credit: Courtesy)
With at least six religious candidates in realistic positions on Likud's Knesset list, the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) Party launched its campaign Tuesday with an attempt to distinguish itself as unique on the political playing field.
"Habayit Hayehudi is not just a party made up of religious people," said Prof. Rabbi Daniel Hershkovitz, a mathematician from the Technion, who was chosen Monday night to head the new party, which was created from the fusion of the National Religious Party with the National Union.
"Our supporters include graduates of religious schools, people who wear black kippot, crocheted kippot and also invisible kippot," Hershkovitz said.
"There are also secular Israelis, a large group of people whose very being and soul is tied to the people of Israel, the land of Israel - and for these people Habayit Hayehudi is their home.
"We are not a right-wing party and we are not a left-wing party. Members will be given freedom of conscience to vote as they wish on diplomatic issues concerning territorial concessions.
"But obviously, every Jew has a portion in the land of Israel and Jews need to settle every part of it," he said.
Hershkovitz said that religious Zionism has embarked on a new road and sees itself as a full partner in all aspects of national leadership.
Regarding his own relative anonymity, Hershkovitz said, "it is a blemish that disappears quickly."
Maj.-Gen. (res) Ya'acov Amidror, who is chairman of the public council that chose Hershkovitz, said, "It is not clear that a more popular candidate could bring more votes. I feel that our decision was the right one. It is better than choosing a veteran politician who brings with him all the negative memories to the party."
Dr. Asher Cohen, a member of the public council, said that the Likud results put Habayit Hayehudi in a difficult situation with regard to the general election.
"The problem is not the Likud's move to the Right, because everyone knows where we are and where they are," he said.
"The problem is that there are six religious candidates in realistic places on their list and at least two or three of them, including women, could have found a place in Habayit Hayehudi."
The six are Leah Nass, Yuli Edelstein, Tzipi Hotovely, Moshe Feiglin, Ze'ev Elkin, and Tzion Pinyan.
There are also religious candidates in slots considered iffy at best - Guy Yifrach, ranked 37, and Yechiel Leiter, ranked 39.
"Our battle is not to reach Baruch Marzel's 25,000 votes. Our challenge is to reach those people who are deliberating between the Likud and Habayit Hayehudi; that's where the real mass of votes is.
"Habayit Hayehudi has not put aside the cause of Greater Israel, because the vast majority of our voters are to the Right," Cohen said. "But in addition, we will bring to the forefront education and social activism, two causes that have been emphasized less until now."
On December 17, Habayit Hayehudi's public council will choose its list of 15 candidates for the 18th Knesset.
A list of 100 candidates chosen via Internet by potential voters who identify with Habayit Hayehudi will be narrowed down to just 50 by a subcommittee of the public council. The council will then choose 15 candidates from the 50.
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