Thirty yeshiva high school seniors met in the Knesset with the religious-Zionist Knesset faction, the National Union-National Religious Party, on Monday afternoon, demanding unity for the next elections.
The students were pleased to note that the entire membership of the nine-MK party Knesset faction was present, except for organizer Uri Ariel, who had been called away for a family funeral. Each of the MKs spoke as well.
The meeting was the result of a letter/petition circulated by the seniors of two prestigious yeshiva high schools: Kfar HaRoeh near Hadera, Israel's first yeshiva high school, and Ulpanat Tzviyah in Herzliya for girls. The petition has only received word-of-mouth publicity, yet already has 700 student signatures. It was born after a series of articles in the religious-Zionist press bemoaning the lack of unity among some of the religious MKs, and warning that the present technical unification between the National Religious Party and the National Union might not last for the next elections.
"Silent No More... We Demand that You Unite!"
"We could be silent no longer," the students' petition stated, "for the sake of the People of Israel... We demand that the [religious-Zionist] Knesset Members unite, or else we will seriously consider not voting for you in the next election." The students are scheduled to vote for their first time in the next election.
"In light of the especially difficult situation facing our beloved and only country," the students wrote, "we see the MKs of the NU-NRP as the right ones to lead the country to better times. But this objective will certainly not be reached with divisions, arguments, and fights. We therefore call upon them to unite immediately. They must decide, in whatever manner they choose, to choose their representatives and leaders. The key to success is simple and clear: Unity, mutual respect, and consensus."
The meeting lasted over an hour and a half. "It was frustrating that no major decisions were reached," one of the students, Michal Tabib from Herzliya, told Arutz-7 afterwards, "but in actuality, we feel that something big has started. We plan to continue to be in touch with the MKs."
Michal said that the political situation in the religious-Zionist camp is "more complex than I had realized." On the other hand, she said she was pleased to see that the MKs appeared to be on friendly and positive terms with each other, "unlike what I had been led to believe."
What the MKs Said
MKs Effie Eitam, Eli Gabbai and Aryeh Eldad "were notably supportive in our efforts for unity," another participant said. "All of the MKs were attentive to our position, but some of them seemed to feel that unity was not the end-all goal. One even said that there was religious unity in the last election, yet we did not do as well as had been hoped in the actual election - to which we responded that perhaps the unity was not genuine. Another MK said that politics was not the only way to achieve our goals for the Nation, Torah and Land of Israel."
The NU/NRP List
The NU/NRP list is actually a union of four parties - the NRP and the three of the National Union - and it is currently not clear if the list will remain united when the elections are next held.
The four parties are:
• The NRP, the most senior member. Essentially the successor to the original Mizrachi party, it held a registration drive three years ago that garnered 70,000 members. Its three MKs are Chairman Zevulun Orlev, Eli Gabbai and Nissan Slomiansky.
• Tekumah, founded in 1998, a long-time member of the National Union. Its policy is largely determined by a board of three leading religious-Zionist rabbis. Its MKs today are Tzvi Hendel (formerly of the NRP) and Uri Ariel.
• Moledet, founded by the late Rehavam Ze'evi in time for the 1992 elections. Comprising both religious and not religious members, its MKs are party leader Rabbi Benny Elon and Aryeh Eldad.
• Achi, whose MKs are Effie Eitam and Yitzchak Levy, both formerly of the NRP. Its goal is to hold an open national primaries for the entire religious-Zionist camp - so far without great enthusiasm among the public.
Further muddling the picture are two other nationalist movements: The Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction of the Likud, and HaTikvah. The former boasts roughly 10,000 members, a strong presence in the Likud Central Committee, and an expectation of 1-2 Knesset Members in the next Knesset. HaTikvah was created just several months ago for what one of its founders, Dr. Ron Breiman, calls the "secular orange [right-wing] camp." Among its supporters is MK Aryeh Eldad.
The union between the NRP and the National Union was achieved, after much toil and hard work to overcome significant differences between the various sides, just in time for the last national election, in early 2006.