Habayit Hayehudi leader Daniel Hershkowitz, L, and National Union leader Yaakov Katz, July 5, 2010
Habayit Hayehudi leader Daniel Hershkowitz, L, and National Union leader Yaakov Katz, July 5, 2010 Photo by Emil Salman
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Right-wing parties National Union and Habayit Hayehudi will merge ahead of the next elections, the chairmen of the parties, MK Yaakov Katz and Daniel Hershkowitz, said at a press conference yesterday.

The two parties have been talking of a merger since the last election, hoping to mend the split in the national religious camp. Today's press conference saw the announcement of a political forum that will lay the groundwork for a joint list in the next general elections.

"In recognition of the importance of political unity in the Zionist, traditional religious national camp, a number of meetings have been held between representatives of the Knesset members from both parties," Hershkowitz said. "The MKs decided to set up a joint forum to promote a political reunion of religious Zionism ahead of the next elections."

When asked about far-right elements in the National Union Party, Hershkowitz said "Whoever wants to be part of the wide spectrum of opinion in religious Zionism will be with us, whoever doesn't maybe won't take part. There's room for any person who cares about the Land of Israel, the people of Israel and the Torah of Israel."

MK Yaakov Katz (National Union ) said his party will join the government if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "will decide to end the construction freeze and this will get the Labor Party to leave the coalition."

While the press conference was still in progress, MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) released a statement saying he was not informed of the merger.

"Nobody updated me or MK Aryeh Eldad about the move between Hershkowitz and Katz," Ben Ari said. "Unity is important but the people of the National Religious Party should resign from the construction freeze government and not be partners to Netanyahu's policy of destruction."