MK Benny Elon, who heads the new National Union-National Religious Party bloc, would not only be willing to join a government formed by Kadima chairman Ehud Olmert, he would even agree to enter a coalition with the leftist Meretz Party, he said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
that will be published on Tuesday.
Elon conditioned joining the coalition on the government not uprooting settlements - a scenario that he believes is likely without a Palestinian partner. He said even if Labor chairman Amir Peretz wins the March 28 elections, the NU-NRP could join a government focused on socioeconomic issues.
|JPOST.COM HIT LIST|
See JPost.com's hottest articles this past week [click here]
"We don't boycott people," Elon said. "We could join the coalition if Olmert decides that because there is no partner on the Palestinian side, the government's efforts need to be focused on socioeconomic issues and education. Allowing diplomatic issues to set the agenda at a time when there is no partner would be a waste of time."
Elon said without a Palestinian partner "even Labor cannot uproot settlements," and therefore, "even if Peretz wins and he asks us to join a government with a socioeconomic and educational agenda, I say, 'Why not?' I have no problem sitting in a coalition on socioeconomic issues, even with Meretz."
Prior to disengagement, Elon had tried unsuccessfully to enlist Meretz's help in toppling Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government by preventing the passage of the 2005 state budget. He said to sit in a government together, Meretz would have to put socioeconomic issues at the top of its agenda.
"The [Meretz MKs] were willing to vote for the budget and give up their socioeconomic agenda to allow disengagement to happen," Elon said. "All the social justice they talk about took a back seat. What keeps them together is just their hatred of the settlers. I would sit with them in the government if they could get over their irrational hatred."
Elon said he considered the new NU-NRP bloc the first step toward building a solid right-wing bloc that could prevent Kadima from forming a coalition, and then, as the basis for a ruling party.
"Short-term, we want the public to see that together with the religious parties, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, it is possible to build a bloc of 61 MKs that could prevent Kadima from forming a coalition," Elon said. "Long-term, we want to present an alternative ruling party built by a different community, a community of believers."
Elon said polls indicating the Likud had fallen to as low as 13 mandates presented an opportunity for the NU-NRP bloc to replace it as the leading party on the Right. He predicted that the Likud would never recover from the Gaza Strip withdrawal that divided the party.
"The political 'big bang' that Sharon used to explode the Likud necessitates doing something different," Elon said. "It would be easier, more practical and more right to build a new framework - a new house - than to remodel the old Likud house that has been destroyed."