Benny Elon warns right-wing religious camp will suffer from its political infighting

Hawkish MK stresses to Post that he is breaking from Knesset, not retiring from public life.

Benny Elon 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Benny Elon 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The religious Right in Israel will be dealt a harsh political blow in the upcoming elections as a result of the infighting among their MKs, MK Benny Elon said Wednesday. Elon, a prominent right-wing lawmaker and party leader, who was at the forefront of the move to unite the right-wing political parties before the last national elections, will not be running in the February 10 elections after he was placed very low on the candidate list of the new Habayit Hayehudi Party. "As someone who led the religious Zionist public to unity, I am not ready to end my political career with divisions," Elon told The Jerusalem Post at his Knesset office. "It pains me, on a public level, to see politicians fighting among each other instead of unifying," he said. Nevertheless, Elon said that there was "no choice" behind the break-up within the new party, whose council, he said, did not build a united front but only succeeded in creating a great split. He said that Habayit Hayehudi - Hebrew for "The Jewish Home" - which he once believed could win as many as 15 seats in the Knesset, would fail in the upcoming elections to become a broad-based party he had once envisioned. "It will be the home of ... a very few Jews, and not the home for the Jewish people," he said. The National Union-National Religious Party, whose list Elon headed, had nine seats in the last Knesset. Despite pleas from supporters, Elon said that he was not going to stay in the Knesset as the head of a small party or faction. "It is not an issue of keeping my seat; that is not what I came here for," he said. "Perhaps out of this crisis - which will severely hurt our public - a better and more positive platform will be created in the future," he added. In the interview, Elon, who entered the Knesset 12 years ago, stressed that he was not retiring from politics, but was taking a break from parliamentary life while pursuing his diplomatic vision from outside the confines of the Knesset. He said he aimed aiming to make a future political comeback as part of a new US-style political movement in several years' time. "We have to stop with these small political parties that destroy each other," he said. The hawkish lawmaker said that he would press ahead with his alternative peace plan, which calls for recognizing Jordan as the official representative of the Palestinians instead of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the resettlement of Palestinian refugees. He said he would also continue his work with Christian supporters of Israel as chairman of the Israel Allies Caucus Foundation, the international arm of the Knesset's cross-party Christian Allies Caucus. Elon's decision to press ahead with his political plan from outside the Knesset is in line with the approach of his political nemesis, former Meretz leader Yossi Beilin. Elon conceded that his own political base failed to realize the critical importance of having a long-term political and diplomatic vision. "It is a failure and it will be difficult and therefore I am sorry about this reality," he said, "but in difficulties there are challenges and we will not be frightened by challenges."