Habayit Hayehudi headed for September battle

The religious Zionist party's leaders Daniel Hershkowitz and Zevulun Orlev will face off despite canceled general elections.

311_Herschkowitz (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It looks like there will be an election in Israel on September 4 after all.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu formed a national- unity government last week, putting an end to his own effort to initiate a September 4 general election.
But an election is currently set for that date in the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi party. The race will pit Habayit Hayehudi’s incumbent leader, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, against his number two, MK Zevulun Orlev.
The race had been set for September 4 before the general election appeared to be advanced to that date. The party had not yet gotten a chance to move up its contest after the process of initiating early elections began, so the September 4 date has stuck, at least temporarily.
Orlev will kick off the race by hosting a press conference Monday afternoon in the national-religious bastion of Givat Shmuel. Orlev chose that location in the center of the country when it appeared that the Knesset would be dispersed. But now that the Knesset will have a regular Monday work day, almost no reporters are expected to attend Orlev’s event, which he said it was too late to move.
Habayit Hayehudi will run together with the more rightwing National Union party in the next election in an effort to form a larger national- religious party that could bring back thousands of kippa-clad voters who have shifted to Likud.
“I think national-religious people learned their lesson when they saw the Likud initiate a 10-month freeze in Judea and Samaria, support haredi [ultra-Orthodox] religious court judges, enable the disqualification of national-religious Rabbi Haim Druckman’s conversions, and take action against outposts,” Orlev said.
“The Likud clearly lacks the values of the national-religious. A big national-religious party can have the most impact on key issues for the national-religious and for the entire country.”
Herschkowitz’s campaign is also in full swing. His spokesman said the minister is enjoying going to parlor meetings almost every night and encouraging people to join his party.
A low-profile membership drive in Habayit Hayehudi began two weeks ago. While both candidates said they want their party to reach out to thousands of Englishspeaking national-religious voters who the party has historically ignored, no ads have been taken in English publications that thousands of the party’s potential members and voters read.
In order to make the drive more successful, Herschkowitz wants the election postponed past September. Delaying the race could allow the party to fend off a potential challenger.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, hi-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, considered running with Habayit Hayehudi, but after the relatively quick election was initiated, he instead began the process of forming a new nationalist Zionist party of religious and secular candidates.
Bennett has stalled the formation of the party and if the Habayit Hayehudi’s race is delayed, he could be persuaded to run. He said he would make a decision soon – only after his wife, who is nine months pregnant, gives birth.
“Religious Zionists people have to be facing outward, not inward,” he said.
“Instead of worrying about finding jobs in religious councils or money for their neighborhood mikve, national-religious politicians should be interested in leading Zionism. There are 40 mandates out there from nationalist Zionist people who are not necessarily religious. They have to be pursued.”