Likud officials have asked Jerusalem Development Authority chairman Moshe Leon to challenge mayor Nir Barkat in the October 22 mayoral race, Likud City Councilman Elisha Peleg said on Thursday.

Leon is an accountant who has served as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israel Railways Authority. He is close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman and appeals to United Torah Judaism and Shas officials because he is religious.

The haredi parties have been seeking a candidate who is religious but not haredi to run against Barkat. Peleg said Jerusalem city councilmen from the two parties have told him they would support Leon if he ran.

“I have been telling Likud leaders for months that the governing party must field a candidate in Jerusalem and I am glad they listened to me,” Peleg said. “Moshe Leon would be a perfect fit for the city.”

Peleg said that as head of the JDA, Leon was involved in the city’s key projects and learned what is needed to advance the city. He complained that Barkat was not right-wing enough and had made too many compromises with Meretz.

While Barkat criticized Netanyahu early in his tenure for not devoting enough funds to Jerusalem, the prime minister and the mayor have gotten along recently. Barkat appeared at a Netanyahu press conference two days before the election for prime minister and he recently named a highway interchange after Netanyahu’s father, Benzion.

Leon has not given an answer about whether he will accept the invitation to run.

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