Despite staunch support for mayoral candidate Moshe Lion from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior Likud members, dozens of Likud supporters endorsed Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in an open letter made public Sunday.
The letter – signed by approximately 60 Likud supporters, including prominent activists such as Rami Levy, Meir Turgeman and Kobi Kahlon – praised Barkat for his vision, leadership and for returning Jerusalem to “the respect it deserves.”
“During the last five years, Jerusalem has begun to take a positive turn which we all feel, and it gives us hope for a better future after many years of continuous deterioration,” the letter stated.
“Nir Barkat has shown in the last five years that his views correspond to the values of our movement, and his actions have returned to Jerusalem the respect it deserves.”
The letter continued: “From Jerusalem and its future commitment – and the desire to strengthen the capital of Israel and maintain the momentum of current achievements – we are members of Likud Jerusalem, and with us the majority of Likud voters support the Mayor Nir Barkat.”
The letter also quoted Netanyahu acknowledging Barkat’s leadership during a cabinet meeting marking Jerusalem Day last year.
“Mayor Nir Barkat is doing much to launch Jerusalem into the 21st century very quickly, while preserving our unique heritage and the foundation of our existence,” the prime minister said on that occasion.
However, in response to the letter, a spokesperson for Moshe Lion, who requested anonymity, flatly denied that Barkat is endorsed by rank-and-file Likud members and dismissed the endorsement as part of an ongoing smear campaign led by Barkat to discredit Lion.
“Moshe Lion is the official and undisputed candidate of the Likud party and that is attested to by all the party’s institutions,” the spokesperson stated. “There has been a concerted campaign by Barkat to block Lion as a candidate for mayor and in every single instance he has lost.”
“Such efforts will only result in continued failure,” the spokesperson added.