Abutbol: Bennett ‘turning Beit Shemesh into a battlefield’

Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol accuses Bennett of attempting to "foment unrest."

August 18, 2013 21:04
2 minute read.
Naftali Bennett during Jerusalem protest July 28, 2013.

Naftali Bennett at protest. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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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.”

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“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.”

Such 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.

MK 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.

“The 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.”

Abutbol had 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 controversy.

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.

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