Uncertainty continues to plague National Union

Party in turmoil after faction chairman Ya’acov Katz demoted himself to an unrealistic spot on the list for the next Knesset.

National Union MK Yaakov Katz 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
National Union MK Yaakov Katz 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The National Union remained in turmoil on Sunday, with MKs unsure of who is still in the party, who is out, and who will lead, after faction chairman Ya’acov Katz demoted himself to an unrealistic spot on the list for the next Knesset last week.
“Our list isn’t closed yet, but time is running out,” MK Uri Ariel explained on Sunday.
The National Union is a faction made up of four parties: Tekuma, which consists of party leader Katz and Ariel; Hatikva, represented by MK Arieh Eldad; MK Michael Ben- Ari’s Eretz Yisrael Shelanu; and Moledet, which did not have an MK in the 18th Knesset.
The four-party list hopes to unite with Habayit Hayehudi ahead of the 19th Knesset election.
Katz has hardly left his home and is speaking only to his closest advisers since he asked to be put in the seventh spot on the party list last week.
Jeremy Saltan, Katz’s parliamentary assistant, said the party leader does not want to remain the head of the National Union if he does not succeed in uniting it in a list with Habayit Hayehudi and having the two parties grow to the point where the seventh spot is realistic.
Another party source said that Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed, two of Tekuma’s spiritual leaders, are working to convince Katz to return to his leadership position, but he has yet to change his mind.
“Ketzale [Katz] is taking a few vacation days,” Ariel explained, diplomatically.
“There have been discussions on what to do and how, and we have two or three options.”
Over two weeks ago, Ben- Ari and Eldad said they would leave the National Union and form their own joint list.
Since then, Ben-Ari joined up with far-right activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir to form a new party, while Eldad has taken out advertisements saying the party will have more seats in the next Knesset if all of its parts run together.
Meanwhile, Ariel expressed cautious optimism that Ben- Ari would return to the National Union fold, but was more skeptical about Eldad.
“We’re making every effort so that everyone can run together. We need to come to an agreement,” he said.
According to Ariel, the fighting within the party is because none of the MKs are willing to compromise.
“People can’t deal with the fact that not everything will be exactly the way they want it,” he said. “If we want to be a big, influential party, not everyone will agree on everything.”
“If someone wants to uproot settlements, they can’t join us, but we need to include a wider range of opinion if we’re going to have more people in the party.”
Meanwhile, Eldad’s camp said he has polls showing his electoral value is equal to that of Katz and Ariel combined, and as such he refuses to be placed behind both of them on the National Union list for the 19th Knesset.
Both Ariel and Eldad’s camps looked ahead to Habayit Hayehudi’s leadership primary on Tuesday.
Ariel explained that Tekuma’s 40-member central committee will meet after the primary and decide who will lead the party and comprise its list for the Knesset.
Meanwhile, Eldad’s spokeswoman explained that his decision on whether to stay in the National Union or not will be influenced by the outcome of the primary.
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According to Eldad’s camp, candidate Zevulun Orlev will be more conducive to uniting the two lists than his rival, Naftali Bennett.
In late August, Bennett said he would not run with National Union if Eldad and Ben-Ari are on the list, but weeks later, signed a unity agreement with Katz that did not leave out any National Union MKs.
“At the beginning of the Habayit Hayehudi primary people spoke out against some of our MKs, but now they don’t,” Ariel said. “We want to unite, but we told them that anyone who disqualifies one of our MKs will be disqualified by us.”
Ariel also pointed to polls showing the joint list could get 10 or more seats.
“I hope we’ll be a medium-sized party in this Knesset, and eventually a big one. It’s a process, an evolution, not a revolution,” he explained, “but if we’re medium-sized, then we can be in the coalition.”
As for joining Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition even though he called for a two-state solution, Ariel said the differences in opinion are “problematic,” but could be solved if National Union was given freedom to vote in the Knesset according to conscience on related issues.
At the same time, Ariel said: “The prime minister might be able to live without us in the coalition. He might prefer to say he’s centrist and point to us as the extreme right.”