Leaders of the renewed National Union party held a press conference today, and expressed optimism that they would receive at least 10 Knesset seats.
The press conference, held in the Knesset, featured the leaders of the various parties comprising the list: Party Chairman Yaakov Ketzaleh Katz of Beit El, MK Uri Ariel of Tekumah in second place, MK Aryeh Eldad of HaTikvah, Dr. Michael Ben-Ari of the Jewish Front-Our Land of Israel Party (known as the Marzel-Wolpe merger), and, in fifth place, Uri Bank of Moledet.
MC’ing the event was educator and TV journalist Avi Rath. He first introduced Ketzaleh, who explained with his customary enthusiasm the goals of the newly-unified party: “We will raise the banner of the Land of Israel, which has been sullied in recent years. We can already feel the excitement in the air at the fact that our united party has arisen. We are confident that, together with our youth - the most wonderful in the country – we will first gather hundreds, then thousands, and then tens of thousands to support our cause.”
Ketzaleh said that the next two months of campaigning will be “like a long stint of miluim (reserves army duty) for me - I never got to go on miluim before because I was injured [and nearly killed, spending several months in the hospital – ed. ] during the Yom Kippur War – during which we will proclaim, ‘Follow me for the Land of Israel!’”
Ketzaleh praised Baruch Marzel for stepping aside and allowing a lesser-known member of his party, Ben-Ari, to take his place.
Ketzaleh is executive director of Beit El Institutions which includes the the college-age Beit El Yeshiva Center and Arutz Sheva IsraelNationalNews.com.
MK Uri Ariel, whose resignation from the Jewish Home precipitated the convergence of the other parties into the National Union, spoke next. [Except for Ariel's own Tekumah party, the Jewish Home had no representation in its first 16 slots from any of the parties that now comprise the National Union.]
Ariel related to the current war in Gaza, and said, “This war was not necessary. It came about only because of the expulsion from Gush Katif… Everything that we predicted would result from that shameful episode came true. Today, as well, the government is failing in dealing with the Arab uprisings in Um el-Fahm and elsewhere. Hopefully, we will be members of the next government and will make sure that mistakes of this sort do not recur.”
Ariel emphasized that the fact that the religious-Zionist camp is running with two heads – the Jewish Home and the National Union – is likely to be a blessing. He said that both parties have supporters who would not vote for a merger of the two, thus that running separately would salvage those votes. “We plan to have a surplus-votes agreement with the Jewish Home," he said, "thus that together we will gain votes and lose relatively few.”
Two parties signed on a surplus-votes pact agree that if each receives enough for an extra partial-seat in the Knesset, the party with fewer such surplus votes would "contribute" them to the other, possibly enabling the latter to receive an extra seat.
MK Aryeh Eldad emphasized that he represents the sector of non-religious people who love the Land of Israel: “For some reason, there is an anomaly in Israel that if someone mentions the Land of Israel, people think he’s either a geography teacher, or religious. In no other country is this true. Italians who love their land need not be religious, and the same is true for Americans. I belong to those who believe in the motto of ‘the Land of Israel for the Nation of Israel in accordance with the Torah of Israel.’ This is the motto that Gandhi [the late Rehavam Ze’evi] printed on the membership cards of his Moledet movement that I joined many years ago, and it's true even for those who don’t wear a kippah [skullcap]… This party will be a party for the Land of Israel, period – Judea and Samaria, the Golan, and Acco and all the mixed Jewish-Arab cities.”
Dr. Michael Ben-Ari represents the Marzel-Wolpe front, which is considered to be the extreme right-wing of the new list. He said that his presence on the list, in the name of Marzel and Rabbi Wolpe, has already proven to be a boon for many voters around the country who otherwise would not have voted at all. “I have received many calls not only of personal congratulations,” he said, “but also with excited offers to help out in the campaign. There were entire sectors of people who felt that they were not represented, but this mosaic that has now been formed provides a solution for them.”
Asked about his views about the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, Ben-Ari was briefly annoyed, saying, “I don’t understand; are you trying to trip me up?” He quickly recovered and said, “I am a loyal student of Rabbi Meir Kahane, I was a co-founder of his Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea, together with his son Rabbi Binyamin Kahane, and I have never denied that I am his student.”
No More Boxes
Moderator Avi Rath noted at this point that Israel has changed, and no longer are there clear definitions and associations for terms such as “right-wing, left-wing, centrist, Land of Israel supporter, Rabbi Kahane supporter, etc.” Rath also clarified that the party’s emphasis on the Land of Israel does not mean that it would not forego the pursuit of important national educational and social goals.
Uri Bank, #5 on the list, noted his two predecessors in the position of Moledet Chairman, Ze’evi and Rabbi Benny Elon. He reminded the listeners that the National Union had produced a film several years ago called “Knife in the Heart” which predicted, he said, “with perfect accuracy, everything that would happen following the withdrawal from Gush Katif. The public in Israel is now more open to hearing this type of talk, and we hope that we will in fact receive a strong mandate to make these views known."
In places 6 through 10 on the National Union list are: Alon Davidi of the Sderot Defense Task Force and a former director of the Sderot Yeshivat Hesder; Rath; Prof. Ron Breiman of Professors for a Strong Israel; Betzalel Smutrich of the Movement to Preserve National Lands; and Lior Kalfa of the Gush Katif Residents Committee.