Jerusalem (Apr. 8)
With less than three months left before the June 30 Knesset elections, the National Religious Party is sharply divided and faces the possible defection of an important part of its constituency. The immediate threat is the possible departure from the NRP of its most vociferous hawk, Rabbi Haim Druckman, a leading champion of the Gush Emunim.
Druckman has demanded at least three “safe” seats on the NRP’s Knesset list for party members who share his views and a Cabinet portfolio for himself if the NRP joins a future coalition government. He has threatened to leave the party if his demands are not met and run for election on a rightwing religious ticket.
After weeks of negotiations, Druckman apparently convinced Education Minister Zevulun Hammer,
leader of the NRP’s “young guard” faction, to accede to his demands. But Interior Minister Yosef Burg, a moderate, is opposed. Last night, Burg’s Lamifne faction adopted a resolution rejecting Druckman’s ultimatum. The latter accused Burg of being “out of touch” with the party’s grass roots supporters.
If Druckman leaves, he will take with him Yosef Shapiro, the Mizrachi representative on the Jewish Agency Executive, and a number of other Gush Emunim sympathizers. Political pundits believe that a new religious list headed by Druckman would attract voters who otherwise might be inclined to support the ultra-nationalist but secular Tehiya faction headed by Geula Cohen. But the NRP could be expected to suffer, too, particularly if the Burg and Hammer factions clash over the issue of Druckman’s demands.