Unity Talks Between NRP and National Union Collapse

The National Religious Party announced Monday evening that negotiations with the National Union party had failed. Each party blames the other's intransigence for the collapse of talks.

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Ezra HaLevi, | updated: 09:25

According to NRP officials, National Union representatives torpedoed agreements between the two parties regarding equality on the party list and the agenda of a joint right-wing bloc. National Union officials claim that the NRP was extremely difficult to negotiate with due to party chairman Zevulun Orlev's demand that he head the joint party list.

Prior to the start of negotiations, Orlev declared publicly that the question of who will head the joint Knesset list would not present an obstacle to unity between the NRP and National Union. "I suggest that the head of the list be either the chairman of the NRP or the chairman of the National Union," Orlev stated. "To remove personal obstacles, I declare that the issue of who will head the list will not present an obstacle as far as I am concerned.”

Orlev told Arutz-7 Tuesday that he had reached a deal with National Union Chairman Binyamin Elon, but that it was not approved by National Union officials. Orlev said he hadproposed a shifting of priorities from Land of Israel and security issues to education, Jewish identity and social-welfare issues. He added that the rejection of the deal eliminated an "historic opportunity."

Prospective National Union MK and head of its Anglo division, Uri Bank, says he is optimistic that talks will resume. "It is crunch time and everybody knew there were going to be collapses. There is a poker game going on and the question is who is going to call whose bluff. I can't promise anything, but I would put money on the fact that there will be a joint list in the end. I don't think either side here has the recklessness on the national level to shirk that move that is so obviously needed after what happened this past summer."

Bank said Orlev's claims that the National Union rejected the NRP's outstretched hand were absurd. "For the leader of the NRP to come and say the National Union is the one that is not willing to go the extra mile for unity after six years of the National Union courting the NRP - literally begging them to join even since 1999 - is outlandish."

Bank said the negotiations were far less ideological in nature and are focused on the composition of the joint party list, including the top slot, the NRP's demand for 50% of the top ten, and the resulting knocking down of MK Aryeh Eldad.

The Forum for the Renewal of NRP Principles is also calling for both sides to show responsibility and return to negotiations on the matter. "In the event that there is not a unification of the two parties," a statement from Forum heads Tzachi Fenton and Avshalom Harazi read, "the heads of both parties will be remembered eternally as those who did not succeed in standing the Religious-Zionist public on its feet during the difficult days following the crisis and awful destruction [of the destruction of Gush Katif], and as those who led to the total fragmentation of the national-religious camp."

Hayil Party chairman Baruch Marzel said that he was not surprised by the inability of the two parties to find common ground. "We all want unity, but unity not as a tool to ensure jobs for every member of a party, but unity of ideology," Marzel said. "I am still calling upon [National Union MKs] Uri Ariel, Tzvi Hendel, Aryeh Eldad and others who are loyal to their ideology to unite - not in the name of Knesset seats but in the name of representing those who truly fought in Gush Katif to the Jewish People."

Marzel says he knows of thousands of "orange" voters who are not even planning to vote because they do not feel represented. He suggested that holding open primaries on the right would help form a list that people can actually identify with.