Naftali Bennett at protest.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol has accused Bayit Yehudi party chairman Naftali
Bennett of turning the city into “a battlefield,” local newspaper Chadash Beit
Shemesh reported on Friday.
Abutbol’s comments were made in response to a
previous statement by Bennett calling October’s mayoral race the “last chance”
for the city’s “Zionist camp.”
“The attempt to foment unrest in the city
is inappropriate and mistaken in any respect,” Abutbol wrote. “This is true even
if the [Economy and Trade] Minister [Bennett] is looking for a good headline or
to attempt to explain the bizarre ousting of [recently replaced Bayit Yehudi
mayoral candidate] Mrs. [Aliza] Bloch in the middle of the race.”
reasons do “not justify turning Beit Shemesh into a battlefield and to further
polarization between the various sectors in the city.”
A source within
the Bayit Yehudi party has stated that it is unlikely that Bennett has seen the
letter as he is on vacation abroad.
Abutbol’s terminology angered some
residents coming as it does on the heels of several days of violent clashes
between ultra-Orthodox extremists and police in the city last week.
Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), who lives in Beit Shemesh, condemned Abutbol, saying
that the mayor’s actions have contributed to the sporadic religious violence
that has characterized the city over the last several years.
incitement began when the mayor sat quietly next to his spokesman as he said
that they intend to turn Bet Shemesh into a larger haredi city than Bnei Brak
and continued through his refusal to put up government funded cameras where the
extremists act out and his decision to close a girls school because extremists
made threats,” Lipman told The Jerusalem Post
. “The mayor is responsible for
extremist control in the city and as a result large numbers of haredim plan to
join the general population in unseating him in October.”
harsh words for electoral opponent Eli Cohen (Shemesh Hadasha-Bayit Yehudi) last
week, telling haredi website Kikar Hashabat that he should not have made
comments regarding the rioting.
Abutbol is no stranger to
In 2008 he told television reporters that secular Israelis
entering the hassidic neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet could be construed
as causing “provocations.”
Haredi extremists, some of whom were
affiliated with the Atra Kadisha, an organization dedicated to the preservation
of ancient Jewish burial places, rioted in Ramat Beit Shemesh for several days
last week in protest of what they say is construction on a plot of land
containing ancient Jewish graves.
Over 30 people were arrested during the
course of the violence.
In the wake of last week’s violence, Eda Haredit
affiliated Rabbi Avraham Simha Hanun told students in his Beit Shemesh kollel,
an advanced yeshiva for married men, that any student who missed his studies to
riot will lose his monthly stipend.
However, senior Eda leader Rabbi
Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss has so far remained silent and refrained from condemning the
violence.Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.