National Union MKs split over primary vote

Party chairman Katz says election system gambles with the Land of Israel; Bank: Moledet will not run next election.

National Union MK Yaakov Katz 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
National Union MK Yaakov Katz 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Although the National Union plans to run on a united list with Habayit Hayehudi in the next Knesset election, its current MKs are unable to agree on how the candidates on that list should be chosen.
National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz published an article about the evils of the primary system on Friday in Besheva, a national-religious weekly identified with the settler camp, which he founded in 2002.
Meanwhile, Arye Eldad, the only MK in the faction who does not identify as Orthodox, told The Jerusalem Post that Katz’s position is “very strange, to say the least,” while Moledet chairman Uri Bank said that his party will not run in the next election.
At the beginning of his article, Katz described the agreement between him and Habayit Hayehudi chairman Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, that the joint list will switch off between representatives of the National Union and Habayit Hayehudi. According to Katz, the reasoning behind this decision is that the parts of the national-religious community are different, and it would be wrong to “artificially fuse” them.
Katz also said each party within his part of the faction would choose its own representatives. The National Union is currently made up of four parties: Tekuma (Katz and MK Uri Ariel), Hatikva (Eldad), Eretz Yisrael Shelanu (MK Michael Ben-Ari), and Moledet. Moledet does not have any MKs, as the US-born Bank ranked fifth on the National Union candidates list, and the faction has only four MKs.
The National Union chairman continued on to attack the primary system as one that has “proven itself as corrupt and corrupting,” and that “makes the job the essence and ideology subordinate.” Holding primary votes has turned large parties into a “shopping mall of ideas that uprooted their ideology,” and whoever has more money always wins, he wrote.
According to Katz, a list chosen via a primary election would be full of people whose faithfulness to the party’s ideology cannot be measured, and the “wholeness of the Land of Israel” should be the highest value to a National Union MK.
“The elite unites of the IDF do not hold primaries – only those who are excellent are chosen. Not everyone can be in an elite unit, because not everyone can withstand the pressure,” Katz, who fought in the elite “Patzi Force” in the Yom Kippur War and was hit in his left hip by a rocket-propelled grenade, wrote.
He added that all four of the National Union MKs could withstand any political pressure and would not “sell or betray” the Land of Israel.
“We will not take chances with the Land of Israel. It is essential to remember our ideals and implement them,” Katz concluded.
Eldad slammed Katz’s article, calling his position “strange, to say the least to connect faithfulness to the Land of Israel to the primary system.”
According to Eldad, Katz made it seem as if only those who oppose a primary would be faithful to their ideology.
However, he added, Shas and United Torah Judaism do not hold primary votes and they have “betrayed the Land of Israel over and over again by avoiding critical votes [in the Knesset] and allowing the Left to withdraw from Sinai and approve Oslo, the disengagement and the settlement freeze.”
Eldad pointed out that parties that did hold primaries, such as the Likud and the former National Religious Party, did the same.
Therefore, he told the Post, the electoral system does not determine “faithfulness to the Land of Israel”; rather the “quality of MK” does.
The National Union lawmaker pointed out that, according to many polls, the recent Labor primary has revived the party and helped it grow.
“Whoever opposes holding a primary is afraid that the public does not support him and that he will fail this test,” Eldad explained. “Two-thirds of the national-religious public, which sent Katz to the Knesset, supports primaries. Ignoring what the public wants and relying on a decision by rabbis will eternalize the National Union’s smallness.”
Also on Friday, when asked to react to the fact that Katz only mentioned three of the National Union’s four parties in his article, Bank was quick to say that there was no ill-will intended, because Moledet does not have an MK.
Bank, who is also the National Union’s faction manager, pointed out that he would have to choose a party in order to run for the next Knesset, but in his current position, he is supposed to stay neutral.
He expressed doubt that he would be put in a realistic place on the combined National Union-Habayit Hayehudi list for the next election, and said that therefore, he has yet to decide whether he will run for the next Knesset.