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Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Shemona, Zefania Drori, blamed anonymous National Union MKs Tuesday for torpedoing unification with the National Religious Party.
Drori has brokered behind-the-scenes negotiations to bring about the unification of the two rightwing parties for the past week since the NRP's central committee and the NU declared they would run independently.
"The NU is made up of a bunch of single-minded MKs who refuse to accept leadership," said Drori. "While the NRP is united as a single party under a clear leader."
The NU is a cluster of three small parties. Moledet's Benny Elon and Arie Eldad, Tkuma's Zvi Hendel and Uri Ariel and the Religious Zionist Party's Yitzhak Levi and Effi Eitam, both former NRP MKs.
MK Effi Eitam strongly rejected Drori's claim.
"Rabbi Drori is an important man," said Eitam. "But there is nothing in his claims remotely approaching the truth.
"It's sad that rabbis get involved with politics. I talked with Rabbi Drori today and I thought we cleared everything up. But I guess not."
Eitam said that he personally supported the union of the two parties and had not given up hope yet. Nevertheless, steps had to be taken to make sure the NRP would not split from the NU immediately after elections.
"The NRP is well known for its zigzag politics," said Eitam. "The NRP remained in the government even after it began implementing disengagement," added Eitam, referring to the incident that caused him and Levi to leave the NRP and form a separate party.
"We have to be true to our voters. According to recent polls the NU has six to seven mandates while the NRP has only three. We agreed to give the NRP five places on the top-ten list. But that is only under the condition the NRP agrees to stay together for at least two years after the elections."
Eitam said he is concerned the NRP will cheat voters by running with the NU temporarily in order to muster more support, then, immediately after the election, the NRP will split and enter a leftwing government coalition without the NU.
The NU rejected a "marriage contract" drafted by Drori that aimed at preventing a split between the two parties by appointing an arbitrating body to hammer out potentially explosive dissent.
"The NRP does not want a Catholic wedding," said Drori. "So I put together a Jewish one."
The arbitrating body, manned by senior rabbis and retired judges, would also be given the power to fine either of the two parties NIS 2.2 million for disobedience.
Rabbis Ya'acov Ariel, Eitan Eiseman, Haim Steiner, Shlomo Aviner and Zalman Melamed all approved Drori's marriage contract.
The demand in the religious Zionist community for unity between the NRP and the NU is strong. The Bnei Akiva youth movement, with 20,000 paying members and as many as 70,000 non-official participants, called on the two to do everything necessary to unite.
In a letter sent to the heads of the two parties Monday, Bnei Akiva, in the name of its members, warned that additional territorial compromises were in the offing.
"The bulldozer of destruction is still rolling and will raze anything in its way," wrote Bnei Akiva heads.
"After the destruction of Gush Katif, painful and deep cuts in education and social affairs, the blow to religious services and the other decrees of this government we are poised for new elections.
"Now, before elections, we stand before you, Knesset members, central committee members and party functionaries, and demand that you unite and run together. This is not the time to be busy with internal politics and narrow party considerations. We are dealing with the Jewish people. We express our disappointment with the mutual name-calling, blaming and the lack of collective responsibility for the Jewish people.
We must work together to create a religious Zionist bloc against all the other parties."
Eitan Mor-Yosef, general secretary of Bnei Akiva and younger brother of Hadassah Medical Organization Director General Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, said he hoped the grassroots endeavor to prod the two parties into unity would succeed.
"We have to unite among ourselves if we want to foster unity among others," said Mor-Yosef. "We have to stop sweating over nuances, our differences are so small."
Mor-Yosef estimated that if the two parties did not unite, many religious Zionists would be so disgusted they will vote for another party altogether, such as Likud.
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