yitzhak levy 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A possible merger between the National Religious Party and the National Union into a joint religious Zionist list would create the second-largest party in the Knesset, according to a recent public opinion poll.
The Dahaf poll, commissioned by the National Union and obtained by The Jerusalem Post revealed that such a merger - which the National Union is pursuing - would create a joint right-wing bloc that could roughly double the two parties' current strength in the Knesset, regardless of whether Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stays in the Likud or leaves the party to form a new centrist one.
If Sharon decides on the latter alternative, the newly configured National Union with the more dovish NRP in its camp would win 21 seats. If Sharon stays on as Likud leader, it would win as many as 26 seats. In the last election, the National Union won seven seats and the NRP six, although MKs Effi Eitam and Yitzhak Levy later left the NRP for the National Union.
The same poll found that by opting to maintain their current political frameworks, the NRP would roughly retain its six seats, and the National Union - this time running separately from Yisrael Beiteinu with which they ran in the last election - taking 14.
Yisrael Beiteinu itself is expected to rejoin the National Union after the elections, scheduled to take place within a year.
With Sharon staying on as head of the Likud, the poll found that running separately, the NRP would win five seats, National Union five or six and Yisrael Beiteinu seven or eight. But if Sharon stays on and the two parties merge, the Likud would drop from 40 to 38 seats, the newly formed National Union would be second with 26 seats, followed by Labor with 15, and Shinui and Yisrael Beiteinu with eight. Yahad would win seven seats, Shas five, and United Torah Judaism would drop to two, with the remaining votes going to Arab parties.
Examining what would happen if Sharon leaves the Likud and is replaced as party leader by Binyamin Netanyahu, the poll found that Sharon's new party would win 32 seats, the reconstituted National Union 21, Labor 14 and the Netanyahu-led Likud 13. Yahad, UTJ and Yisrael Beiteinu would get six each, while Shinui and Shas would only get five seats apiece.
The survey notes that such a historic merger, under the slogan of "uniting all the religious Zionist camp under one flag," would draw voters from both Shas and UTJ.
While the survey noted that the poll results should be seen not as exact but as a trend, "nevertheless it does seem that there is a large potential in such a dramatic move," the survey's analyst, Tel Aviv University's Prof. Kamil Fox, wrote.
MK Benny Elon (National Union), who would lead a united party, garnered the most support (53 percent) among actual and potential party voters, followed by Eitam with 41%. The poll was taken among 887 Jewish Israelis, with no margin of error cited.
The Dahaf Institute declined comment on the privately-commissioned poll Sunday, and it remained unclear why the National Union chose to refrain from publishing the results so far.