There is a common myth that politicians are cynical, not spontaneous and are
always prepared for the worst. The myth also holds that in politics one can find
allies at most, but never friendship. Well, myths perhaps make our lives more
colorful but they are often simply erroneous.
This was borne out last
week at Safra Square when an experienced politician, Eli Simhayof (Shas), was
surprised to learn that (1) Mayor Nir Barkat was adamant to fire him from all
his duties and stop his salary following his being indicted in the Holyland
affair and (2) that Barkat was not as close a friend as Simhayof had
By now Simhayof, and perhaps some of the city council members,
have been reminded that indeed there is no such thing as friendship in
Less than a year ago, Simhayof was certain that the difficult
days were behind him. After long and exhausting negotiations, his party finally
obtained a salaried deputy mayor as a member of the coalition, just a few weeks
after his colleague and former head of the party, Shlomi Attias, resigned from
the city council, paving the way for Simhayof to enjoy the honorable position
and a generous salary (about NIS 36,000). At the time, Simhayof knew there was a
little cloud over his head regarding his involvement in the Holyland affair, but
he was sure he wouldn’t be indicted and was certain that his amicable personal
relationship with Barkat would spare him any embarrassing situation, such as
being asked to resign.
Well, Simhayof was wrong on both counts. Not only
did the police and court investigation end with his being indicted for his part
in the city’s biggest corruption scandal, but Barkat forced him to
Last week Simhayof, unable to conceal his anger, told this
reporter how the mayor’s request that he immediately resign took him by
surprise. But he admitted that the most painful part was the lack of any
“I thought we were friends,” he said, a bit naively. “He
didn’t even call me into his office to discuss the matter – I was asked to
resign by e-mail! Is that the way to treat a friend and a deputy mayor?” A rare
moment of poetic justice occurred when Simhayof, half speaking for himself,
admitted that he should have known by the way that Rachel Azaria was fired two
months ago that no one was safe.
So Simhayof had to resign. But for the
sake of his pride at least, he refused to be stripped of his title, even if it
meant giving up his salary, arguing that it was the city council plenum’s
decision to make. “It was a small but tasty revenge,” said Simhayof.
Thursday, Barkat didn’t even put the issue on the agenda of the city council’s
monthly meeting, as he knew that he wouldn’t have a majority because Simhayof
had managed to gather a large number of supporters.
Barkat has the
authority to strip a city council member of his portfolios and salary, but not
to remove his or her title or eject him or her from the council.
the trial turns out for Simhayof (and that will take time), there is no question
that this development came at the worst time for Shas. What Simhayof left behind
him (including the salary) looks like a typical battle over inheritance among
siblings, although as a source in his party said, “A sibling relationship is the
last image one could use to describe the harsh and defiant relationship of Shas
on the city council.”
But there’s more. Typically, Simhayof recovered
quickly after the initial shock (he is a trained politician, after all) and
launched what he calls “the beginning of the end of Barkat’s days on the city
What did he mean by that? Simhayof says that first of all, he
will personally see to it that for the rest of the mayor’s term on the council,
Barkat’s life will be miserable. But more importantly, from now on Simhayof will
be leading the camp that is actively seeking a candidate to challenge Barkat in
the 2014 mayoral elections.
“We already have names, and none of them are
haredi – we already learned that lesson [with former Uri Lupolianski],” he
explains. “But they are very good people, and I swore to myself that Barkat will
not be the next mayor if that is the last thing I do in local
Stay tuned. There will be more.