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Dovish Religious Zionists Flock Against Right Wing

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Dovish religious Zionists who failed to win a parliamentary seat in 1988 are regrouping as an ideological counterweight to the right-wing Orthodox.

Rabbi Yehuda Amital, launching the newly revived Meimad movement in Jerusalem over the weekend, charged the National Religious Party with displaying intolerance to the idea of territorial compromise.

Those in the National Religious Party who believe land should be traded for peace “are afraid to speak out,” said Amital, who heads a large yeshiva in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank.

The Meimad leader, who has said in the past he would trade even Gush Etzion, 12 miles south of Jerusalem, for full peace, attacked the “extremist” and “militaristic” tone of much of the youth associated with NRP institutions.

He referred specifically to yeshiva-high school students, members of the Bnei Akiva youth movement and students at girls’ ulpanim and colleges.

Meimad’s Har Etzion “hesder” yeshiva at Alon Shvut has 500 students. Unlike talmudical academies sponsored by fervently Orthodox haredi groups, pupils at hesder yeshivas serve in the Israeli army.

Amital said the NRP’s emphasis on the “integrity of the Land of Israel” had led to the branding of those who held a contrary view as heretics.

He said he was acting out of a “growing fear for the future of religious Zionism.”

Among those attending the weekend meeting were Yehuda Ben-Meir, a prominent NRP figure in the past, and Rabbi Menahem Hacohen, a former Labor Knesset member.

The NRP struck back by accusing Meimad of “elitism and misrepresentation.”

The revival of Meimad reflects the disappointment of its members with the present Labor-led government, for which most of its members had voted, according to NRP Secretary-General Shaul Yahalom.

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