Daily Israel Report

Religious Parties - Irrelevant or Necessary?

A debate took place on Tuesday during the Jerusalem Conference on the subject of whether religious political parties should join Likud.
By Elad Benari and Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 3/15/2011, 8:48 PM / Last Update: 3/16/2011, 4:17 AM

A debate took place on Tuesday during the Jerusalem Conference on the subject of “Maximizing the Political Power of the Religious Community – Alone or with the Likud?”

Taking part in the debate were MK Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz (National Union), MK Othniel Schneller (Kadima), and former MK Nissan Slomiansky, among others.

“We have seen what has happened in the last 15 years when many religious Jews believed Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and Binyamin Netanayhu, who promised them that they will keep Eretz Yisrael, its educational institutions and the yeshivot, and the moment they became Prime Minister did the opposite,” said Katz, who is in favor of separating the religious parties from Likud. “We are still asked to vote for the Likud party when it is ready to give up the land of Israel and is not standing up for its principles.”

On the other hand, Moshe Feiglin, Chairman of the Manhigut Yehudit movement, is in favor of having the religious parties join Likud.

“We all saw that those who opposed the continuation of the freeze came from Likud,” he said. “It was people such as Danny Danon and Yariv Levin – those Knesset members who got elected only because of Manhigut Yehudit. With all due respect to Ketzaleh, it was not him nor was it other Knesset members from the right wing parties.

“The majority of the Religious-Zionists already understand that from an influential point of view, the ballgame is Likud,” added Feiglin. “Because of that, so many of them are joining Likud today.”

He said that “unfortunately the religious parties are irrelevant. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but look at reality…I want to see Ketzaleh in Likud. All the good people who believe in Eretz Yisrael should be in that field - the field of leadership of the State of Israel.”

Katz, however, sees things differently. “I think that today the national religious people are so strong in Israel, both from a quantitative and qualitative point of view,” he said. “We have the ability to be united, but unfortunately because we have so many principles, it’s very hard to achieve a basic form in which everybody will give up a little bit. We are working on it very hard, and with G-d’s help we’ll be united in the next elections and we’ll have enough candidates in the Knesset to be a much more influential party than we are today.”