Beit Shemesh mayor candidate Eli Cohen 370.
An agreement creating a joint list between the Bayit Yehudi party and Eli
Cohen’s Shemesh Hadasha in Beit Shemesh may have soured some voters on the
leading challenger to Shas Mayor Moshe Abutbol.
The agreement came as a
surprise to many Beit Shemesh residents, coming as it did on the second day of a
poll whose loser was slated, by agreement between the two leading candidates, to
drop out of the race against Abutbol. While Cohen was widely seen as a shoo-in
to win the poll, he did not wait for the results, but rather sealed a deal with
the Bayit Yehudi party to take the top spot on a joint list, displacing local
party head Aliza Bloch.
Cohen had been in talks with the party for
several days before the announcement. Cohen, like Bloch and the other candidates
belonging to the self-styled “Zionist camp,” believed that Abutbol was elected
due to a split in their bloc in the previous municipal election in
The purpose of the poll was to make sure that such a split did not
recur in October.
Residents took to Facebook to debate the development,
with some saying that they “would rather not vote, or vote for Abutbol than
accept a compromise,” one local told the Post. While such hotheads were
outnumbered by those calling for cool heads to prevail, the sense of betrayal
among Bloch supporters may lead a small but critical number of people to refrain
from casting ballots, a move that could prove harmful to Cohen in what is
expected to be a tight race.
“The numbers in this city are so close that
the obstinacy of a few can throw things,” the local resident
Another resident who spoke with the Post said that after last
week’s deal she had decided to vote for Abutbol. “Most politicians break their
promises after being elected and not before,” she said of Cohen.
statement on Facebook, Bloch said she felt betrayed.
She wrote that on
Wednesday, party staffers contacted her and “suggested that Eli Cohen be
declared as chairman of the Bayit Yehudi party in Beit Shemesh and their
candidate for mayor and I will take second place on his list.”
refusing, saying she wanted to wait for the results of the poll as agreed, “it
became clear that the Bayit Yehudi people had already closed a deal to join
forces with Eli Cohen before speaking with me about it.” Bloch said that she
“will not withdraw my candidacy for mayor.”
Despite Bloch’s critique of
her party, however, not everyone agrees with her assessment that the matter of
the deal was a betrayal.
One Shemesh Hadasha party activist who spoke
with the Post said that instead of a betrayal, the deal should be seen as a
concession of defeat in the poll after the first day by Bayit Yehudi, which
decided to abrogate the agreement by bowing out gracefully instead of losing
face when the results came in.
After the first day, he said, the
pollsters decided to cease polling as the announcement of the deal would have
rendered any subsequent results meaningless for their purposes.
resident, in a post on a community group on Facebook, echoed a sentiment that
seems to be gaining ground, namely that “it doesn’t matter.”
“We need to
put the past behind us... and stay focused on the important task of getting a
good mayor in office, a mayor who will create a better planned city, a pleasant
city and a city with the amenities that we all want.”
over it,” he said. “It’s politics. But we need a new great mayor. Kids
disillusioned? Get them over it. We need their votes.”
sentiments, however, supporters of Cohen may face an uphill battle as some swing
voters turn away from the leading opposition candidate for mayor in what is
promising to be a close election.
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