NRP, NU step up efforts to create new broad traditional list

Religious Zionist, right-wing politicians and leaders hope to create a party that will appeal to as many right-wing voters as possible.

uri Ariel 248.88 (photo credit: Knesset)
uri Ariel 248.88
(photo credit: Knesset)
The National Religious Party and the National Union have stepped up efforts to create a unified electoral list that would represent the broadest possible constituency of religious and traditional voters, as an early election becomes increasingly likely, sources close to the negotiations said Sunday. Religious Zionist and right-wing politicians and public leaders hope to dismantle the NRP and the NU and create in their place a party that would appeal to as many right-wing voters as possible. MKs from the two parties, which ran together in the last national election in 2006, had been holding negotiations on and off for the past year. But in the wake of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's announcement that he will not run in next month's Kadima primary, the NRP and NU have redoubled efforts to create a new list that would place a strong emphasis on Jewish identity and education. MK Uri Ariel (NU) said there were talks going on with all members of the NU and the NRP and that "a lot of headway" had been made. "We have agreement in principle on the creation of a united list and we have even put together a political platform that puts education and Jewish identity at the top of our priorities. "But we are still trying to hammer out the details of how we will choose the list that will run in the next elections," Ariel said. NRP Chairman Zevulun Orlev wants to hold a primary while Ariel and other MKs in the NU support the creation of a central voting committee composed of a diverse group of rabbis and right-wing public figures. Some of those mentioned as possible committee members include singer Yehoram Gaon; Rabbi Shmuel Zafrani, an adviser to former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu; and Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, one of the heads of the Petah Tikva Yeshiva. The three men are representative of three sectors who could potentially support a united list. Gaon represents the Israeli Jew who has strong ties to tradition and Zionism, but who is not outwardly religious. Zafrani comes from the more religiously conservative segment of religious Zionism, while Cherlow represents religious moderates. A source close to the negotiations said that the intransigence of MK Effi Eitam (NU) was one of the obstacles to the creation of the unified list. "Effi is a tough person to deal with," said the source. "He doesn't care about the voting process. He just wants to be reelected to the Knesset." The sources also said that Eitam had difficulties getting along with Orlev. In addition to the obstacles on the personal level, the future united list will have to grapple with competing ideologies. NU spokesman Yigal Amitai said it was still unclear whether or not the new list would include religious Zionist parties to the right and to the left of the NRP and the NU. Meimad, a left-wing religious party that is presently united with Labor, and Baruch Marzel's far-right Jewish Front are potential candidates to be included in the unified list. Amitai did not rule out the possibility that one of the two would be included. But he conceded that it would difficult, if not impossible, to include them both on the same list. Amitai said that both the NU and the NRP saw an early national election as a definite possibility. "Tzipi Livni [the front-runner in the Kadima primary] with Ronnie Bar-On as her finance minister would never agree to give in to Shas's demand for [higher] child allotments. And her left-wing opinions would also make it difficult for Shas to sit with her. So how is she going to put together a government?" "We should be getting ready for elections very soon," Amitai said.