In light of the splintered national-religious Knesset factions, seniors from two yeshiva high schools have initiated an ultimatum: Unite, or it's likely we won't vote for you.
The petition was initiated 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.
"We could be silent no longer," the petition states, "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 multi-faceted nature of the religious-Zionist political camp has long been an issue. There is currently one religious-Zionist party in the Knesset - the National Union-National Religious Party (NU-NRP) - but it is comprised of four different factions: The NRP and the three parties that make up the National Union. The party's four members are thus the following:
The goal of Achi is to unite the other parties into one, but has so far not succeeded in arousing the interest of the others.
• The NRP, the most senior member. Essentially the successor to the original Mizrachi party, it once boasted as many as 12 MKs on its own (in the 9th Knesset, from 1977 to 1981). It held a registration drive three years ago that garnered 70,000 members. It is headed by MK Zevulun Orlev; its other MKs are Eli Gabbai and Nissan Slomiansky.
• Tekumah, founded in 1998 by former MK Chanan Porat and others, and 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, when it won 3 Knesset seats - its best showing. 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. The goal of Achi is to unite the other parties into one, but has so far not succeeded in arousing the interest of the others.
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, only a few months old, was created for what one of its founders, Dr. Ron Breiman, calls the "secular orange [right-wing] camp." Among its supporters are MK Aryeh Eldad.
"In light of the especially difficult situation facing our beloved and only country," the students write, "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 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.
The students are scheduled to meet with some of the MKs in question; the date has been set for March 31.
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