MK Tzvi Hendel, who now lives in Yad Binyamin after being forcibly evicted from his home in Gush Katif last summer, took an optimistic view of the results. "In the last elections," he said today, "the National Union ran together with Lieberman, and we received seven seats, while the NRP won six, for a total of 13 - while today, the three of us are up to 21."
Army Radio interviewer Razi Barkai said that using this logic, the Likud's drop from 38 to 11 should also be taken into account. He did not mention that without taking Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu into account, the National Union and the National Religious Party dropped from 10 seats to 9.
Continuing his analysis, Hendel said, "The 11 MKs of the Likud are strongly right-wing, and objected to the disengagement in one form or another, so that this makes a total of 32 right-wing MKs - a strong showing. In addition, the seven MKs of the Pensioners Party are not necessarily left-wing, and in fact the party leader Rafi Eitan is definitely right-wing. Finally, the votes of the traditionally right-wing soldiers have not yet been counted, and this could give us another Knesset mandate [at the expense of the Arab Balad party, which is hovering close to the minimum threshold - ed.]"
"In short," Hendel concluded, "it is far from the truth to say that Olmert has a broad national mandate for his 'turning-inward' plan. In fact, he has only his 28 MKs; even Labor is not so enthusiastically in favor of a withdrawal without an agreement."
Olmert's advisor Dov Weisglass said the opposite: "The results show that there is a potential for 80 MKs who support or who could support such a plan." He is apparently counting the Arabs, the Pensioners, Shas, and more. Lieberman said again today that he would oppose any withdrawal from Jewish communities.
MK Hendel said that the turnout of voters in Yesha appears to have been higher than around the country, "but there were definitely some protest votes. I know young voters who voted for the Pensioners and of course for Marzel."
The nine MKs of the NU/NRP are as follows:
1. Benny Elon (National Union - Moledet)
2. Zevulun Orlev (NRP)
3. Tzvi Hendel (NU - Tekumah)
4. Effie Eitam (NU - Religious Zionism Renewal)
5. Nissan Slomiansky (NRP)
6. Yitzchak Levy (NU - Religious Zionism Renewal)
7. Eli Gabbai (NRP)
8. Aryeh Eldad (NU - Moledet)
9. Uri Ariel (NU - Tekumah)
In the 10th and 11th places are Gila Finkelstein and Sha'ul Yahalom, both from the NRP.
Speaking with Arutz-7 today, party leader Benny Elon expressed his confidence that the NU/NRP would receive 10 seats in the end, based on the as-yet uncounted votes of the soldiers and the like. "I am disappointed, after the blows we suffered this past summer, that more people did not vote for us. But I do feel that we succeeded in moving many voters rightward; Kadima did not receive 40, but only 28. On this, I want to compliment our public, which, with hard work, succeeded in changing the facts; the polls said one thing, and the results were different. Olmert does not have the 40 MKs that Ariel Sharon had to do what he did. We can say now that most of the nation objects to unilateral disengagements."
Elon said that he it is clear to him that his part will not join a Kadima government:
"I think we should remain in the opposition and build ourselves up into an alternative for leadership. Let me say that after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which was an earthquake for Israel, nothing changed in Israeli politics - until the election of 1977. The public learns slowly. I don't see this government lasting for very long - for instance, an unstable coalition such as Kadima, Labor and the Pensioners - and it's very important to continue our Face-to-Face campaign to show the people the dangers of the Oslo process and the establishment of a Palestinian state and the absolute necessity of putting an end to the entity of the Palestinian Authority, which is like a cancer in the entire area. As long as the PA continues to exist here, there won't be security; witness the Katyusha we saw yesterday fired at Ashkelon. The process of imbuing the public with genuine love of the Land takes time."
MK Effie Eitam, who represents the National Union's youngest faction, Religious Zionist Renewal, sees the election results as a chance to turn the NU-NRP into the new leadership of the nationalist camp. "The Likud crushed itself," he said, "but out of this crisis, a new opportunity arises to build a new leadership for the Jewish nationalist camp in Israel. This leadership is starting with only 10 Knesset mandates, but we have patience and we have a path."
Former Yesha Council leader Pinchas Wallerstein, the head of the Binyamin Regional Council, took a different tone. "We are headed for a very difficult period," he said. "However, it could have been worse. There is still a right-wing bloc, even though Ariel Sharon succeeded in breaking it apart." He also credited Sharon with causing the public to hate Binyamin Netanyahu.