Religious Zionist Parties Seek to Compromise

The NRP refuses to accept Benny Elon as head of a joint list with the National Union - but is apparently willing to entertain the possibility of his brother, Rabbi Moti Elon, at the top.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:07

The two parties say they want to merge for the upcoming elections, but have been unable to reach agreement on "personnel" issues. These include the questions of who will head the list - National Religious Party leader Zevulun Orlev or National Union head Benny Elon - and how to divide the top 10 places between the two parties.

Benny Elon, also a rabbi and former yeshiva dean, heads the National Union party, while his brother, Rabbi Moti Elon, is the Dean of Yeshivat HaKotel in the Old City of Jerusalem. The two are sons of retired Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon, who himself is a student of the Hevron Yeshiva, an ordained Rabbi, and a Doctor of Laws from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Rabbi Moti Elon, a nationally-renowned lecturer and educator, is said to be considering the possibility of heading the joint list.

Another name mentioned as a compromise option for the two parties is Rabbi Rafi Peretz, the head of the pre-military yeshiva that was recently uprooted from Atzmona to the Halutza Sands area.

Ideological differences also divide the two parties, as was evidenced by an interview NRP leader Zevulun Orlev granted in the Friday edition of the Jerusalem Post. He said that the closure of a public-religious school would be more painful to him than the dismantling of a community in Judea and Samaria. Orlev later explained that there was always the hope of returning to areas that were given away, but if a religious school is closed down, "we have lost those students."

On-line critics responding to reports of this quote noted that religious schools and yeshivot were also closed down and lost in Gush Katif.

Orlev also said in the interview that though he does not want to "give up anything" in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, "it's clear that in a real peace agreement Israel will have to give up something."

MK Tzvi Hendel of the National Union, who has long called for a merger between the two parties, said, "I view MK Orlev's remarks with gravity. We will demand clarifications from MK Orlev, and we will convene a faction meeting to discuss this."

Two polls conducted late last week show that the NRP running alone would receive only three Knesset seats - the minimum possible. Two other surveys show the party doing somewhat better, receiving between 4 and 6 seats under certain circumstances. The polls show the National Union receiving an average of nearly two seats more.

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said he believes that in the end, the merger will come to fruition. "It's true that Orlev is more pink than orange," Eldad said, meaning that he is not as right-wing as the National Union and even some of the NRP, "but the NRP people also understand that they are liable not to even get into the Knesset if they run alone, and they will choose unification... The merger will give a push to the volunteers in the field to work even harder as the elections draw near."