orlev desk 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The National Religious Party voted Tuesday to run alone in the March election after more than a month of failed talks with the National Union to form a joint list.
NRP leader Zevulun Orlev blamed the failed unity talks on the National Union.
"They [the National Union] are not advocating unity, they are proposing elimination," he told central committee members at the NRP convention in Moshav Nehalim.
Orlev said at each turn in the negotiations he had made concession after concession only to have the National Union return with additional demands.
Orlev said he thought the two parties had reached an agreement on Sunday, and had even asked National Union leader Benny Elon to present it with him to the NRP convention. Then, at the last moment, the National Union insisted that the two parties register as one party in the Knesset, he said.
"In essence, we would have been entering the list as individual candidates and not as an independent party," Orlev said. Under such an arrangement, he warned, "it wouldn't be important what you decide or what you want, you would become irrelevant."
National Union MK Arye Eldad said he had been among those who had believed in such a union, but had recently decided it was risky and would not help the party gain voters.
Eldad said the National Union believed it had made many concessions in the pursuit of unity.
"We almost breached all of the differences," he told The Jerusalem Post. But the party stood firm on its requirement that the NRP and the National Union register with the Knesset as a single party, he said, adding: "We wanted a marriage, not a brief flirtation."
Eldad said the National Union feared the NRP would use the idea of a joint list to gain voter support, but once in the Knesset it would bolt and sit as an independent party. He said the National Union feared that in this way it inadvertently would have helped bring to power a party that would join a government that would sacrifice settlements.
"That was the breaking point," Eldad said.
Orlev told the convention if the NRP had moved forward under such terms, the 104-year history of the Religious Zionist movement would have been destroyed. He said there was no reason for this, since most of Religious Zionists supported the NRP, which he said was advocating education, Jewish identity and social welfare alongside the battle for the Land of Israel.
Orlev said the party's platform should clearly state its objection to relinquishing territory.
"The NRP will not support the sacrifice of settlements," he said. Still, he added, the party would consider sitting in any coalition.
It's important that people respect the government's authority and realize that "decisions are made at its table in Jerusalem and not at rallies or protests," Orlev said. "We will propose that the voters connect to the state and its leadership."
His speech was greeted by a round of applause. When a few members protested Orlev's call to run alone by standing up and shouting, MK Shaul Yahalom told them their feelings were understandable but irrelevant. Pragmatically, he said, "there is no agreement that can be approved."
Many on the Right, including the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and some prominent rabbis, had urged the two parties to unite in the hope that together they could garner 10 to 20 mandates. Polls indicate that if they run alone, the NRP would receive three to five mandates and the National Union would get four to seven.