YNet News (Link) - Kobi Nahshoni (January 26, 2009)
The Likud is wooing the religious Zionist sector: Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Member Effie Eitam, who heads the Religious Zionist party Achi, signed an internal memorandum solidifying the relationship between the two parties; and stating that the Likud now sees Achi as a full-fledged political partner.
In a joint press conference held Monday afternoon, Eitam called the pact "an ancient dream and a historic moment." Netanyahu, meanwhile, pledged to include the funds needed to support of the sector's school system in the State Budget.
"The religious Zionist public is part of every major way of life in Israel and it is time it was part of the ruling party," said Netanyahu. "This is no longer a limited sector, but one which is present in many avenues.
"We have all seen the major role religious soldiers played in the latest campaign in Gaza. They used to say a Likudnik was someone who was carrying a kippa in his pocket, but here we have Likudniks wearing it on their head. We should be proud of them."
The new pact, he added, "is not a coincidental one. The gaps between the Likud and Religious Zionism are disappearing."
According to the new deal, the Likud has pledged to prevent any further withdrawals, and push for a permanent, viable living solution for the Gush Katif evacuees.
The party also promised to regulate the religious services provided in Israe, to keep Jerusalem united and under Israeli sovereignty and to increase the capital's Jewish majority.
When asked why his Likud rival Moshe Feiglin was not invited to the ceremony, Netanyahu replied, "One of the values we're talking about is serving in the military. We will not abide any form of dissention."
MK Eitam, who joined the Likud despite the objections of some of the party's veterans, praised the new alliance: "We have our mutual concerns but we're looking ahead. This agreement is much more than just a piece of paper. It's an ancient dream and signing it is a historic moment."