Hatikva Party courts Tkuma as hard-line factions fracture

With Sunday night's deadline for submitting Knesset candidate lists fast approaching, the national camp is still struggling to organize itself, amid infighting and last-minute decision-making. While the Moledet faction split from the Habayit Hayehudi Party last week, the remaining National Religious Party and Tkuma factions are still working out their respective places within the newly merged movement. Moledet, which joined with the secular right-wing Hatikva Party to run a joint list in February's elections, is openly courting Tkuma - hoping to pry them away from Habayit Hayehudi as well. (To further complicate things, Hatikva is a recently formed splinter from Moledet.) "We're still hoping that Tkuma will break away," Moledet member Uri Bank said on Wednesday. Bank, who was born in Detroit and raised in Chicago, was one of the Moledet members slated to be on the Habayit Hayehudi Knesset list released last week, but he was pushed off at the last minute by the public council that ranked the candidates. "We don't have a lot of time, though," Bank continued. "We have to submit our list on Sunday, so this is really our final push right now. "We're putting money into ads for this Shabbat's [newspapers], and we really hope that Tkuma will decide to come over." If Moledet/Hatikva succeeds in courting Tkuma, they will in effect have turned Habayit Hayehudi back into the NRP, as that faction will be the only one remaining in the once three-pronged movement. "Our representatives are meeting right now to decide what the Hatikva list will look like," Bank said. "Our committee will vote for the candidates' placements, but we've already agreed to have an equal balance of power between Moledet members and Hatikva members." "However," Bank continued, "if Tkuma were to leave Habayit Hayehudi and join with Hatikva, we'd give them the No. 1 spot, and that would probably go to [MK] Uri Ariel." Bank conceded that there might be some arm-wrestling between Hatikva head MK Arye Eldad and Tkuma's Ariel. "But I don't see it as a major obstacle," he continued. "After all, the two men are close friends who live next door to each other [in Kfar Adumim]." But if its efforts to court Tkuma succeed, Hatikva would alter its character - returning to the framework under which it ran in the 2006 elections - the National Union, which was then made up of Moledet, Tkuma and Ahi. And although the National Union and the NRP put their differences aside in 2006, running on a joint ticket and winning nine Knesset seats, under the this scenario, the two groups would be competing for votes. Still, a source close to Tkuma told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday evening that Ariel was unlikely to switch parties. "It would destroy Habayit Hayehudi if he left, and there are people who are not willing to let that happen," the source said. Further to the right, Rabbi Dov Wolpe and Baruch Marzel, who brought their two parties together to form the new Eretz Yisrael Shelanu party, have been doing some courting of their own, inviting Eldad to leave Hatikva and join them. Marzel and Wolpe see a friend in Eldad, based on the their shared interest in attacking Habayit Hayehudi, which they all believe is too moderate. Nonetheless, all three party leaders, despite their own attempts to split the other right-wing parties, have stressed the importance of unity on the Right.