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NU: Likud May Have Just 'Divorced' Its Religious Voters

National Union says Lieberman's "extreme secular" policies may drive away traditional, religious Jews - who will vote for religious parties.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 10/25/2012, 9:28 PM

Ketzaleh
Ketzaleh
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The National Union party said Thursday that the union of Likud and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu may drive away traditional and religious Jews, who object to Lieberman's "extreme secular" policies. Yisrael Beytenu is nationalist,but elements of its platform, such as secular marriage, could not be accepted by most religious Jews. 

"Likud has just delivered a divorce decree to its traditional and religious voters," the party said in a statement.

Other leading nationalists expressed mixed feelings Thursday with the surprise move to unite Likud and Yisrael Beytenu.

Moshe Feiglin, the head of the Jewish Leadership faction in Likud and a possible member of the next Knesset, congratulated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the move. He called on Netanyahu to bring the other components of the nationalist camp  -- probably a reference to the religious Zionist parties – into one large nationalist party.

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said that the union was a good thing because it exposed that the real right wing is neither Likud nor Yisrael Beytenu. "The good news is that this is an open union between the person who already agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state and froze construction in Judea and Samaria for ten months, with the person who has already said he would even give the Palestinian state additional land at Israel's expense," he said – in a reference to Lieberman's plan for handing over the heavily Arab Wadi Ara region to the PLO, in exchange for other land to be handed over to Israel.

The bad news, he said, is that Netanyahu and Lieberman could decide to establish a Palestinian state, under pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama.

MK Zevulun Orlev of the Jewish Home said that now, the Jewish Home is the only remaining alternative for the religious public. Naftali Bennett, who is vying with Orlev for leadership of the party, said that religious Zionism received "a great boost" today, and that the public must choose between a coalition of Netanyahu-Lieberman with the left, and a coalition between Netanyahu-Lieberman and the nationalist camp.