Habayit Hayehudi may bolt over freeze

Party to try to unite religious Zionists ahead of next election.

311_Herschkowitz (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition will begin to crumble if he continues the 10-month settlement freeze beyond the end of September, Habayit Hayehudi faction chairman Zevulun Orlev warned on Monday at a meeting of the Knesset’s Land of Israel lobby.
Netanyahu was already facing threats from Labor ministers to remove their party from the coalition if the freeze did not continue. Orlev urged Netanyahu to ignore the threats from Labor and instead satisfy the overwhelming majority of the coalition that was on the Right.
Settlers step up campaign against PM
Peace Now urges longer settlement freeze

“The prime minister should not think that our faction would accept the freeze continuing,” Orlev said. “If someone thinks the freeze can continue and we will merely protest, they need to think again. I don’t like to threaten, and I don’t think elections would help now, but the coalition can tell Netanyahu enough is enough.”
The heads of the Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Israel Beiteinu, Shas, United Torah Judaism and National Union factions signed a letter to Netanyahu at the conclusion of the meeting, warning him that they would use any parliamentary maneuver necessary to force him to keep his promise to end the freeze on September 26.
Before the meeting, Habayit Hayehudi leader Daniel Herschkowitz held a press conference with National Union head Ya’acov Katz, in which Herschkowitz declined to comment about whether his party would quit if the freeze continued. Katz said that if Labor left the coalition, his party would negotiate joining in its stead.
“When the government was formed, we were supposed to be there, but Labor vetoed us,” Katz said. “If Labor leaves because of its problems, we will negotiate, and if we receive assurances from Netanyahu that he won’t be the old Netanyahu, I think we can be part of the government.”
Herschkowitz and Katz revealed at the press conference that they had reached an agreement on their parties running together for the next Knesset after months of secret negotiations. But it soon became apparent that neither one was speaking for his entire party.
National Union MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Arye Eldad said the only one of the three parties making up the National Union that would run together with Habayit Hayehudi was the Tekuma Party of Katz and MK Uri Ariel. Orlev, Ben-Ari, and Eldad were kept in the dark about the talks, some of which took place at the home of Habayit Hayehudi MK Uri Orbach in Modi’in.
Herschkowitz and Katz denied that their announcement was a surprise for their party colleagues.
“The disputes among us are less than the disputes within the Likud,” Herschkowitz said. “I left the rabbinate and academia for the important goal of uniting religious Zionism. In religious Zionism, there are many ideas. Whoever wants to join us is welcome, and whoever does not will not.”
Katz predicted that Likud and Israel Beiteinu MKs would leave their parties to join his, especially if Netanyahu decided to continue the freeze.
“A lot can happen on September 26,” Katz said. “There can be idealists from other parties who can decide to join us. In the next election, we should have double digits.”