orlev waiter 224.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a move he described as both self-sacrificing and a necessary act of Zionist survival, MK Zevulun Orlev on Monday said the time had come to bid farewell to the second oldest party on the political scene; the National Religious Party.
At a packed press conference in the Knesset, Orlev, along with MKs from the National Union's Moledet and Tekuma, announced their union as a new, as yet unnamed party that would put education at the top of its agenda.
Although these parties ran together on a joint list for the last Knesset, they maintained their separate political identities.
Now, said MK Tzvi Hendel (NU), "We decided to cancel all four parties and found a new one."
Addressing specifics, Hendel said that the merger erased the individual party lists which existed before, thus requiring primaries to determine the new leader. In this new election system, "We are holding open primaries for the first time on a national level for our leader."
"Anyone who identifies with our path can join and decide who our leader will be," Hendel said, adding that "everyone is invited to the party except for the extremists who are happy when they see Arab bloodshed or happy when they see settlements evacuated."
Speaking about who will be included in the top ten on the party's list, Hendel said that there would be a minimum of two "non-kippa wearers," four people not in the previous lists of the parties and two women.
At the press conference the MKs did not state who the contenders for the new party's leadership would be, although without dropping his name, Orlev hinted that one option could be former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon. He later told The Jerusalem Post that the party wouldn't put a rabbi at its helm.
The merger must now be ratified in the coming weeks by the central bureaus of each party. A list of MKs for the 18th Knesset will be decided by a newly created public committee and elections for a new party head will likely be held next month.
At the press conference, Hendel said that the new party was one that would put education first during a "crisis of values in politics and in every field in this country."
"The public understands that education is the foundation of everything," Hendel said.
His words were music to Orlev's ears. It's a victory for the social and educational values the NRP has always stood for that a man like Hendel, known almost solely for his support of settlements, is now espousing a wider platform, Orlev later told the Post.
In this new party, the basic values of the NRP have not disappeared, it is just the name and the form which will change, Orlev said.
At the press conference, he likened the move to dissolve the NRP to the one that the Mizrachi party made in 1955 when they joined with Hapoel Mizrachi to form the National Religious Party, which ran in the 1956 elections and became a coalition partner.
In recounting the NRP's history Orlev went beyond its 52 years in the Knesset, during which it had been a coalition partner in all governments from 1956 to 1992, and then three more times in 1996, 1999 and 2003. The roots of the party go back to the the founding of the Mizrachi movement of religious Zionism in 1902.
With the creation of the NRP, "No one has argued that the Mizrachi (as a movement) has disappeared," he said.
All that is happening here, he said, is that "we are continuing in the path of the religious Zionist party."
What was needed now, he added, was not another small party but one large party that all those who believed in Zionism could belong to.
He asked the party members and those on the right to support this move by going "on a brave journey" with him. The NRP, he said, "was sacrificing itself" to better fight for the nation's "soul."
After having been a small opposition party, the time has come to be part of a coalition that stands for these values.
Among the MKs who opted not to join the new party were MKs Arye Eldad and Effi Eitam.
Eldad is heading into elections with his own newly created party, HaTikvah, and Eitam has announced he planned to join the Likud because he didn't believe the newly created party would become powerful enough to stop the territorial concessions of the left.
Orlev said he didn't trust the Likud when it came to territorial concessions because they viewed the issue from a security perspective rather than one of principle. There are traditional, historical and ideological reasons why Hebron and Beit El should remain part of Israel that have nothing to do with security, said Orlev.
That might be true, agreed Eitam, but then one has to ask the question: "What can a new religious/secular party" which is only likely to get five mandates do to stop such concessions.