The new nationalist-religious party has begun to work.  It has convened an Independent Public Council of 35 men and women from the religious and traditional sectors, and they are accepting nominations for the new list of Knesset candidates.  The Council must formulate a list of names and submit it to the Central Elections Committee by the end of December. 

Education at the Top

The founding agreement states that the new party will “lead a new national agenda, headed by education and the Jewish character of the State of Israel, social welfare, clean-handedness and integrity, Jewish ethical values, settlement, and diplomatic and security affairs.  Education is at the top of the list, as it is the most agreed-upon uniting common denominator of the multi-faceted religious-Zionist public and the broad traditionalist public.”

At Least Four New Names

The founding parties – the National Religious Party (NRP), and Moledet and Tekumah of the National Union – have recommended that of the first ten names on the list of candidates, at least four of them be people who are not currently serving in the Knesset, including women and “traditional” Jews, i.e., those who are not outwardly religiously observant.  The parties have also recommended that the party leader be chosen in public primaries from the among the religious and traditional publics.

The Council has accepted the first proposal, but has not yet made a decision regarding the second one.

Currently running for the party’s top spot are at least three candidates: MK Uri Ariel, of the Tekumah faction of the National Union; MK Zevulun Orlev, head of the NRP; and Tzachi Fenton, a resident of the Samaria town of Elkanah.

The members of the Council are not to be candidates for the Knesset, government, or party positions, according to the party’s guidelines.  The Council is headed by Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former IDF Deputy Intelligence Chief, and its members include 12 rabbis (including Rabbis Dov Lior, Chaim Druckman, Eli Sadan, Yaakov Levanon, Eli Vishlitzky, Yuval Cherlow, Tzfaniah Drori, and Rafi Peretz); six women, including retired Justice Sarah Frisch; and others such as Gershon Mesika, Yoel Tzur, Dr. Asher Cohen, Yitzchak Meron, Eliav Shochetman, Yakir Segev, Moti Zisser, Dr. Yaakov Hadani, and Moshe Moskowitz.

The current Knesset Members of the founding parties are:

* Benny Elon and Aryeh Eldad of Moledet;

* Tzvi Hendel and Uri Ariel of Tekumah;

* Nissan Slomiansky, Eli Gabbai, and Zevulun Orlev of the NRP;

* and Effie Eitam and Yitzchak Levy of the now-defunct Achi party.

Eitam and Eldad have already declared that they will not be members of the new party.  The Council will thus have to choose among the other seven for the six – or fewer - top-ten slots.

Olam Katan (Small World), a weekly pamphlet with a Land of Israel/Torah/youth slant that is distributed in synagogues, is compiling a list of names of potential candidates for the new party’s Knesset list.  Among them are:

* Moriah Lapid, a promoter of religious-secular dialogue;

* Col. (res.) Moti Yogev, former Paratroopers Brigade commander and former Bnei Akiva chairman;

* Channel Two journalist Sivan Rahav-Meir;

* Ethiopian-Jewish party leader Avraham Negosa;

* Rabbi Shai Peron;

* Rabbi Rachamim Nisimi;

* Boaz HaEtzni;

* Yesha Council head Danny Dayan;

* Judea and Samaria Jewish-rights activist Orit Strook.