National Religious Party (NRP)

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NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY (nrp), Israeli party known in Hebrew as Hamafdal (acronym for Ha-Miflagah ha-Datit ha-Le'ummit). The nrp was founded in June 1956 through the merger of two national religious Zionist parties, *Mizrachi and *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi, and additional religious circles. In the elections to the Third to Twelfth Knessets it ran in elections under the name Ha-Ḥazit ha-Datit ha–Le'ummit (the National Religious Front). It constitutes a part of the World Federation of Hamizrachi-Hapo'el Hamizrachi. Unlike the ḥaredi religious party, the nrp always considered itself an integral part of the State of Israel, and despite its adherence to halakhah, has accepted the supremacy of the secular laws of Israel on most issues. Its basic position was that the secular laws and halakhic laws can exist side by side with each other. Though rabbis have played an important spiritual role in the nrp, and their influence has grown in recent years, the party is run on democratic lines, and it is the members, not the rabbis, who decide the party's line. Like the other Orthodox religious groups in Israel, it opposes recognition of Conservative and Reform Judaism.

Until the Six-Day War the nrp followed a moderate political line, and concentrated its activities on preserving the Jewish character of the state in various spheres, including the provision of religious services, the preservation of the religious status quo on such issues as kashrut, respect for the Sabbath, nurturing of the national religious education system, the religious kibbutz movement, and social welfare. It advocated full military service for men, together with religious studies within the framework of yeshivot hesder, and nonmilitary national service for women.

Until 1976 it maintained a political alliance with *Mapai, and then the *Israel Labor Party, commonly known as "the historical coalition," and was a member of all the Mapai- and Labor-led governments, except for a brief period in 1974, soon after Yitzhak *Rabin formed his first government. However, after the Six-Day War, and even more so after the Yom Kippur War, a shift to the right began in its political positions, especially with regard to the future of those parts of Erez Israel occupied in the course of the Six-Day War, and in religious terms it shifted to a more messianic brand of Judaism.

In 1968 the nrp convention adopted the following policy decisions: "The National Religious Party views the political and security accomplishments that have been achieved by this generation in Ereẓ Israel, as the beginning of realization of the will of Divine Providence and of the processes directed toward complete salvation of the Jewish people in the land of its forefathers; the State of Israel must pursue all means at her disposal to lay the foundation for peace between itself and the neighboring states, and to negotiate peace treaties; in the negotiations for peace treaties, the State of Israel must be guided by three basic principles: the aspiration toward enduring peace; the historic religious rights over the Promised Land; and assuring secure borders for the state."

The nrp was at first an active actor within the *Gush Emunim settlement movement that was founded in 1974, though quite rapidly Gush Emunim started to develop independently of it. This shift in positions was both the result of the new political circumstances, and the growing influence of the younger generation in the party, headed by Zevulun *Hammer. The formal breach between the nrp and the Labor Party occurred in 1976, after its ministers abstained in a vote in the *Knesset on a motion of no confidence in the government, over the issue of the alleged official breach of the Sabbath as a result of a ceremony held in an air force base on a Friday afternoon.

The nrp joined the government that Menahem *Begin formed in 1977 and joined all subsequent governments, except for that formed by Yitzhak Rabin in 1992. In November 2004 it left the government of Ariel *Sharon over his Gaza disengagement plan.

In 1981 the Moroccan-born MK Aharon Abuhazeira left the nrp, claiming that the party had not stood by him during a corruption trial, due to his ethnic origin, and established his own party called Tami, which entered the Tenth Knesset. In 1988 a group of moderate members, who objected to the nrp's religious and nationalist radicalization, left the party and established a moderate religious party called Meimad. However, Meimad remained weak, and entered representatives into the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Knessets only because it ran in a single list with the Labor Party.

The nrp was adamantly opposed to the Oslo process initiated by the Rabin government, and voted against all the various interim agreements signed with the Palestinians, starting with the DoP in September 1993. The assassination of Rabin in November 1995 by a young man, Yigal Amir, who had studied in the religious Bar-Ilan University, resulted in serious soul-searching within the nrp, but this did not stop a further shift to the right thereafter. Prior to the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset, Effie Eitam, a former brigadier general, who was born on a secular kibbutz but gradually adopted radical religious right-wing views, was elected as the leader of the nrp. The nrp was the only religious party that joined the government formed by Ariel Sharon after the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset but soon found itself in opposition to Sharon's disengagement plan. Nevertheless, the majority of the party continued to support a pragmatic line, while Eitam favored taking the nrp into the right-wing National Union Party. This resulted in his being removed from the leadership of the party, and his leaving the party together with MK Yitzhak Levy in June 2004, to form their own parliamentary group called Religious Zionism. The nrp remained in the government for another five months, but finally left the government in November 2004.

The nrp's political leaders since its establishment have been Ḥayyim Moshe *Shapira (1956–70), Dr. Yosef *Burg (1970–86); Zevulun Hammer (1986–98); Yitzhak Levy (1998–2003), Effie Eitam (2003–04), and Zevulun Orlev (2005–).

From the Third to Ninth Knessets the nrp had 10–12 Knesset seats; in the Tenth Knesset it went down to 6, losing seats to the Tehiya and Tami, and until the Sixteenth Knesset received only 4–6 seats, except for a brief revival in the Fourteenth Knesset when it went up again to 9, as it did in the Seventeenth (2006).

Until 1977 the nrp usually held the ministries of Postal Services, Welfare, Religious Affairs, and the Interior. After 1977 the Ministry of Education and Culture was held by the nrp in numerous governments, and as of the 1990s also Transportation, Construction, and Housing and National Infrastructures.

The party publishes a daily called Hazofeh. From 1957 to 1969 it published an ideological journal called Gevilin, which started to appear again in 1990.


Ve'idat ha-Yissud shel ha-Miflagah ha-Datit Le'ummit ha-MizrahiHa-Po'el ha-Mizrahi (1957); Y. Cohen, Esrim Shanah Rishonot li-Medinat Yisrael be-Hayyei ha-Yahadut ha-Datit ha-Me'urgenet (1968); Y. Azri'eli, Dor ha-Kippot ha-Serugot: ha-Mahapekhah ha-Politit shel ha-Ze'irim ba-Mafdal (1990); A. Cohen and Y. Harel (eds.), Ha-Ziyyonut ha-DatitIddan ha-Temurot: Asufat Mehkarim le-Zekher Zevulun Hammer (2004).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]

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National Religious Party (NRP)

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National Religious Party (NRP)