Olmert courts support from religious Zionists

The participants at the meeting in Olmert's J'lem office included more than 15 members of the NRP.

bin nun 88 (photo credit: )
bin nun 88
(photo credit: )
Hoping to increase his support from religious Zionists, Acting Prime minister Ehud Olmert met Wednesday night with some 40 of its leaders, including some who plan to vote for his Kadima party in the March 28 national election. The participants at the meeting in Olmert's Jerusalem office included more than 15 members of the National Religious Party. The meeting was immediately denounced by the National Union-National Religious Party as "insignificant." The NU-NRP spokesman said many of those in attendance had long since left the party and were members of the left-wing religious party Meimad, which is part of the Labor party. "Kadima is using Meimad as a fig leaf," the NU-NRP said. Regarding the participants in the meeting, the NU-NRP added, "There is no one behind them." However NRP Central Committee member Yitzhak Mayer, a former ambassador to Switzerland who was at the meeting, said he was certainly still active in the NRP, but that for the first time in his life he was not voting for the NRP. Mayer said he was supporting Kadima instead because he believed the NRP became a marginal player on the Israeli political scene the moment it joined forces with the National Union in February. A Ha'aretz poll released Wednesday showed the NU-NRP getting only eight mandates. "The NRP has gone one step too far and has isolated its electorate. I don't want to be part of a party that doesn't want to be be party to running the affairs of the state," Mayer said. Kadima was bringing together people from different backgrounds - religious and secular, Left and Right - to determine the future borders of the State of Israel. This process should not take place without the participation of the National Religious movement, Mayer said. "They [religious Zionists] need to be part of this dialogue. We can't be disconnected from the future of the country," he said. There is a national consensus that territorial concessions should be made, so the question facing the nation now is not whether to relinquish territory, but what land should be given away, he said. As part of Kadima, the religious Zionists could help determine what land is retained, he said. Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, who heads the Religious Kibbutz Movement's yeshiva at Ein Tzurim, also attended the meeting with Olmert. He announced his support for Kadima earlier this month. Former NRP Knesset member Yehuda Ben-Meir, who left the party in 1988, said Kadima offered an alternative for the national religious voter who no longer felt that there was a party that represented them, now that the NRP had joined forced with the National Union. Many national religious are "not orange, we are blue and white," Ben-Meir said. But not everyone at the meeting was willing to publicly declare their intention to vote for Olmert. NRP member Moshe Moskovic, who is in charge of administration at the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Gush Etzion and is one of its founders, said he thought well of Olmert and was glad to have gone to the meeting. But, he said, he was keeping his vote private. The meeting was organized by Otniel Schneller, a former directorgeneral of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, who is running for the Knesset as part of Kadima. As a religious Zionist, he believed that he and others had a significant role to play in Kadima, he said. The meeting lasted over an hour and was characterized by Olmert as one of the "most important" events he had held, said Schneller. Olmert told the group that to be prime minister of Israel was to feel the weight of thousands of years of history on one's shoulders. Speaking of the country's future borders, he told the group, "We will give up on everything that we have to, but we will not give up on anything that we do not have to," said Schneller.