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National Religious Party (Miflagah Datit Le'umit, in Hebrew)

NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY (Miflagah Datit Le'umit, in Hebrew)

Israeli religious party, founded in 1956 by the merging of two religious blocks, Mizrachi and Ha-Poel ha-Mizrachi. The objective of the Mafdal, or National Religious Party (NRP), was to restore Jewish sovereignty over all of Palestine as it existed in the time of King Solomon. Supporting the expansion and development of Jewish settlements, the NRP opposed restitution of even the tiniest piece of the territories occupied by Israel. In 1974, a new current in Mafdal, rising from the 1973 War, led to the creation of the Gush Emunim movement, which became the spearhead in settling the Occupied Territories. Mafdal's support of the Labor Party waned until it broke with Labor in 1977, contributing to Likud's coming to power. In 1981, a split caused by opposition between the Sephardim and the Ash-kenazim in the NPR led to the creation of a new bloc, the TAMI. During the Knesset elections of July, the NRP obtained six deputy seats. Two party members, Yossef Burg and Zevulun Hammer, joined the government of Menachem Begin, the former in the ministry of the interior, the latter in education. In March 1989 two members of the party received appointments in the Yitzhak Shamir government: Hammer as minister of religious affairs and Avner Shaki as minister without portfolio. Between 1994 and 1996, as a consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian accord of September 1993, the NRP was radicalized and obtained nine seats in the Knesset elections of May 1996. Three of its members joined the government of Benjamin Netanyahu: Hammer became deputy prime minister and minister of education, Yitzhak Levy became minister of transport, and Yigal Bibi became deputy minister of religious affairs. Nahum Lagental, political secretary of NRP, was named general director of the ministry of transport.

In February 1998, after the death of Hammer, the NRP named Yitzhak Levy its party leader but his extremist positions prompted some members to resign, joining the Meimad, a religious party of the center-left. On 18 May 1999, in the Knesset elections that brought Laborite Ehud Barak to power, the NRP won only five seats. Three members of the party joined the Barak government: Levy as minister of housing, Bibi as deputy minister of religious affairs, and Shaul Yahalom as deputy minister of education. The following December, the party's leadership threatened to withdraw its support from the government if it retreated from the Golan Heights. On 9 July 2000 the NRP ministers, along with those of Israel be-Aliyah and SHAS, resigned, reproaching Barak for the concessions he was about to make to the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations at Camp David. In March 2001, after Ariel Sharon's election as prime minister, no member of the NRP figured in the new government. However, the party leadership assured the new prime minister of its continued support for him in the Knesset. In the 2003 elections the NRP received 4.2 percent of the vote and six seats in the Knesset.

SEE ALSO Arab-Israel War (1973); Ashkenazi; Barak, Ehud; Begin, Menachem; Israel be-Aliyah; Israel Labor Party; Likud; Meimad; Mizrachi; Netanyahu, Benjamin; Sephardim; Shamir, Yitzhak; Sharon, Ariel; SHAS; TAMI.

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