Tensions flared between the Jewish Home party and the National Union's Tekuma faction, which ran on a joint list in the last elections but are experiencing heavy friction in trying to unify ahead of March 17 elections.
The most recent spat came after Minister for Senior Citizens MK Uri Orbach (Jewish Home) took a dig on Galei Yisrael (Israel Radio) at Tekuma, over the reported offer to give them reserved spots on a joint list.
"There's a limit to how much can be given up on. Let them deign to come down from their holy heights and run (in January primaries) like mortals," Orbach said mockingly.
MK Orit Struk of the Tekuma faction struck back, saying "in these words there's a lot of exaggeration, misplaced insult and misplaced arrogance."
The two groups have been talking of uniting their lists amid charges that Jewish Home is selling out its values for popularity on the one side, and factionalism being charged on the other side. Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and Tekuma head Uri Ariel showed signs of a possible split in a recent shouting match about the possibility of merging the lists.
Elaborating on her point, Struk said "this arrogance that says that there are 12 mandates thanks to Uri Orbach and not thanks to Uri Ariel, I think that's a disgrace. Uri Orbach was a little child in 1981 when religious Zionism had 12 mandates without Uri Orbach and without Naftali Bennett."
Struk added that while Bennett may or may not have charisma, "to come and define that a public this big, that religious Zionism which in the past already knew to bring mandates when it unified, all of it is Naftali Bennett? Come on, that's very, very exaggerated."
"Eliminate National Union"
The tensions in the party were exacerbated as Rabbi Dr. Daniel Tropper, the chairman of the Jewish Home party’s Elections Committee, opined to Arutz Sheva on Wednesday that National Union should be disbanded and absorbed into Bennett's party.
"The time has come that the party chairman (Bennett) put terms to the National Union - either get in or get out, you can't always start this tension anew, we need to go together," said Rabbi Tropper.
In making a plug for Bennett that contradicts with Struk's comments of strong national Zionist representation well before he came onto the scene, the rabbi claimed Bennett was responsible for the party's strong showing in polls.
"Every knows the truth that Naftali Bennett rose from anonymity and led the party to 12 mandates and now according to polls 17, a very strong party," said the rabbi. "In my opinion the most ideal would be to eliminate the structure of the National Union because there's Jewish Home."
Regarding the unification of Jewish Home and Tekuma's list, Bennett and Ariel are to meet Wednesday afternoon to talk about joint elections.
"Split up and run separately"
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, Regional Rabbi of Samaria and Dean of the Elon Moreh Yeshiva, offered an alternate path in his reaction to the news of upcoming elections, in which he called on Jewish Home and Tekuma to split up.
"Unity does not mean confusion," said Rabbi Levanon to Galei Yisrael. "Unity of too many topics on one platform brings in the end to chaos. When one wants to paint a picture he doesn't mix colors. Each color needs to have its own place."
Explaining his reasoning, the rabbi said "there's an ideological and electoral argument. There is always the question; every poll knows to examine how there is a benefit to running separately with two heads that in the end, everyone knows they are on the same platform but run separately to join after elections."
"There are people who won't vote for my agenda, I have a religious agenda...and there are people who won't vote for the agenda of Naftali Bennett and Uri Orbach and Ayelet Shaked," said Rabbi Levanon.
Responding to Jewish Home's controversial decision to actively court the secular and Druze vote, the rabbi said he supported Druze MKs on Jewish Home's list. "From a halakhic (Jewish legal) standpoint it isn't a simple issue, but it can be solved," he said.
Rabbi Levanon's talk in support of leaving a variety of ideological parties instead of one unified list that might compromise on values would seem to also support the Otzma Leyisrael party, which former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari announced would be running in the elections, even though the group is not yet being represented in media polls. Ben-Ari leveled criticism at Jewish Home's positions in making the announcement.
The question of conflicting visions and values was given expression recently as the Jewish Home Forum in Judea and Samaria wrote the party's Knesset members, and asked why they are in the government still given the ongoing severe freeze of Jewish construction in the region.