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An Almost Defunct Faction in the Nrp is Attempting a Revival

December 23, 1982
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The news that the almost defunct “Likud Utemura” (Unity and Change) faction within the National Religious Party is attempting a revival has aroused deep interest within the political community.

Premier Menachem Begin himself, as well as other top ministers, were reported yesterday to have contacted NRP leaders asking whether the Likud Utemura return to the scene could have far-reaching repercussions for the coalition.

The man behind the would-be revival is Likud Utemura’s long-time leader, former Religions Minister Yitzhak Raphael. Interviewed this week, Raphael said cryptically — and significantly — that if his faction would succeed in restoring the NRP to its former fortunes it would be “tied to” neither of the two main blocs, Likud or Labor. In the national elections last year, the NRP lost six of its 12 seats in the Knesset.


Of himself, Raphael said he had always been “middle of the road” within the tradition of Mizrachi. His chief lieutenant in Likud Utemura, former MK David Glass of Jerusalem is a noted dove within the religious camp. Raphael, considered a powerful and very talented individual, is a product and advocate of the traditional NRP Mizrachi moderation, and is not tainted by the extremism of the Gush Emunim.

He is not personally committed to the Likud-NRP alliance, having been on the sidelines when it was established five years ago and renewed last year. There are fears, therefore, that if Raphael recaptures a pivotal position in the NRP, the party could move away from Likud and return eventually to the historic alliance with Labor.

Raphael stressed that he himself sought no formal role of leadership in the revived faction. But there was no doubt that it is he, behind the scenes, who is the driving force behind the revival.


In his media interviews, Raphael is forthright in his direct criticism of the NRP leaders, Yosef Burg (of the Lamifne faction) and Zevulun Hammer and Yehuda Ben-Meir (of the “Young Guard’ faction) for being responsible for the party’s massive electoral defeat.

Raphael says he harbors no grudges, but plainly his unceremonious ouster from the front ranks of the party in 1977, as a result of a “plot” in which Glass and another top lieutenant, Aharon Abu-Hatzeira, cooperated with the Young Guard faction, still rankles Raphael. He seems to have forgiven Glass — who is now closely involved with him in the revival of the faction. But he still sees himself apparently as at odds with the other main factions.

Before Raphael’s ouster from the party’s front ranks, in what was known as the battle of the “long knives,” the Likud Utemura faction held 30 percent of the power and patronage in the NRP, with 30 percent also held by Burg’s faction and 20-odd percent by the Young Guard. The fear is that the past is prologue. If the Likud Utemura revival succeeds, it will make its mark when the NRP holds its internal election, probably next April.


Some political observers here link the revival of Likud Utermura — a nationwide meeting of activists was held in Tel Aviv this week — to reports of a decline in the standing of Tami, the ethnic breakaway party formed by Abu-Hatzeira in 1981.

Some Tami adherents have openly returned to the NRP fold, and others are signalling that they would consider doing so if Abu-Hatzeira’s appeal to the Supreme Court against his conviction in an embezzlement case is not upheld. The case is presently pending.

While Tami fared well in last week’s tough politicking at the World Zionist Congress, the public opinion polls in Israel show it gradually fading as a political force. A large part of its activist membership, which broke away from NRP with Abu-Hatzeira, belonged to the Likud Utemura faction, and, if that faction is now revived, some of them would be tempted to return to their former political home.

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