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The slight rise in Thursday's Jerusalem Post poll is just the start of the upswing for the National Union-National Religious Party, MK Benny Elon, who heads the right-wing party, is predicting.
The poll showed his party up to 9-10 mandates compared with the nine it had last week. It remains tied with Shas as the fourth-largest party after Kadima, Likud and Labor.
The National Union hopes to reach 15 to 20 mandates by the elections.
Numbers will rise as the party's campaign initiatives, such as its "telenovella" TV ads and door-to-door electioneering, kick off, said Elon. "It will take a few more days for the projects to be in full swing," he told the Post.
He expected additional voters to come from the Likud and from Baruch Marzel's Jewish National Front Party. He also was hoping to hold onto more moderate NRP voters who were alienated by last month's merger between it and the National Union.
In the last election, the National Union ran with Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu. That combination in the 2003 election garnered seven mandates, while the NRP, which ran alone, had six.
The National Union and Israel Beiteinu joined in the past because they were too small to stand together, said Israel Beiteinu MK Eliezer Cohen, who pointed out that they were now both powerful forces on their own. Thursday's Post poll showed Israel Beiteinu at eight mandates, a slight drop from 8-9 last week. Lieberman told the Post that his goal for the elections was 10 mandates. "If we can close that gap in three weeks, I will be happy," he said.
In this election, Elon did not look to join political forces with Lieberman. With all the feelings of friendship and respect he had for Lieberman, Elon said those who were voting for Israel Beiteinu were not the same voters who would be attracted to NU-NRP.
Elon said that anyone who wanted to offer Palestinians land in the center of the country did not belong in the right wing.
In response, Lieberman said his party was the "pragmatic right" that offered a workable solution to the question of Israel's borders.
It was disingenuous for the NU-NRP to determine that his party was not part of the "right wing," he said, when he, unlike the NRP, had allowed himself to be fired from the government for refusing to support disengagement.
Had the NRP left the government at the same time, it could have prevented disengagement, Lieberman said.
Cohen said he preferred to think of his party as "center-right" rather than "center" and to paint the NU-NRP as the more "extreme right." Israel Beiteinu has a platform of land exchange to help insure the Jewish demographic majority, whereas the NU-NRP, which considers all land scared, would not support that.
The two parties, therefore, appealed to very different voters, said Cohen. Israel Beiteinu scores heavily with secular Russian voters, he said, while the NU-NRP's support base was focused more on the religious right.
The results of the split have so far been positive. In the last election, the three parties garnered 13 mandates altogether, whereas they have 18 in Thursday's poll.
Cohen believed the influx of voters was coming from the Likud and possibly from Shinui. There were also those from across the spectrum who liked Lieberman's land-exchange plan, which calls for a swap of population centers so that Israel would keep settlements such as Ariel while cities like Umm el-Fahm would be handed over to the Palestinian Authority.
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