With the hope of securing 20 mandates in the elections, the National Religious Party and National Union agreed to negotiate, within 10 days, an agreement by which the two parties would run together on a joint list for the next Knesset. In a press conference Tuesday, NRP head Zevulun Orlev sat alone without the National Union or other NRP MKs and called for the two parties to create a joint list based on the values of education, Judaism and welfare. "We hope that in a week to 10 days we will sit in a joint news conference," Orlev said. The parties were setting up negotiating teams for a joint Knesset list, National Union head Benny Elon told The Jerusalem Post. Both parties would retain their own independent identity and ideologies but would join together as a single voting bloc in the Knesset. As a second step, Elon said, he was hopeful that the bloc would widen to include Yisrael Beiteinu and the Likud. In this Knesset, the National Union and Yisrael Beiteinu operate as one bloc, for a total of nine mandates. The NRP started with six mandates but lost two of them to the National Union when MKs Effie Eitam and Yitzhak Levi quit the party in favor of the National Union. In his press conference, Orlev called for a new "Jewish" political movement to replace the "national" one that had been torn apart by disengagement. Politicians had made a mistake by prioritizing the question of Israel's borders over the more central issues of "education, Judaism and welfare," said Orlev. "Our participation in any future government will be weighed first and foremost against these issues," Orlev said. The future of the NRP lay in its ability to fight for these issues under a wider political bloc of religious Zionism, he claimed. "I'm calling on the religious and traditional voters that have dispersed among the Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Labor, Shinui, the National Union and the NRP to support the creation of a [Knesset] list. Those who didn't understand why Judaism and Zionism are important were likely to lose their connection to the land," said Orlev. He added that he hoped such a political bloc would not fall apart over the question of leadership. MK Michael Melchior said Tuesday that the National Religious Party had been swallowed whole by extreme right-wing lunatics. Melchior, head of the left-wing religious Zionist Meimad, was commenting on the union between the NRP and the National Union. "The NRP is ideologically bankrupt and has failed to represent religious Zionism's real needs," said Melchior. "While all other parties are moving toward the center, the NRP decided to make opposition to the evacuation of settlements a condition for joining the NRP. "It hurts me to see this new transforma tion of what was once the magnificent, historic 'Mizrahi.' The NRP insists on plac ing the value of Greater Israel above all else at the expense of education and church-state issues." Matthew Wagner contributed to this report.