Moshe Lion receives gravel and key to Jerusalem, 2018..
(photo credit: EHUD AMITON/TPS)
Almost three months after the big bang – the municipal elections in Jerusalem – things remain unsettled at Safra Square, although three entities have emerged strengthened by the turmoil: Degel HaTorah and Shas in the political arena, plus the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, an independent institution that served as a lighthouse for all parties regarding the elections and their impact on the city.
One major talking point for Mayor Moshe Lion during the campaign was his connection and good relationship with high-ranking officials in a range of ministries. It was hoped that his close ties with influential politicians would benefit the city – and this is proving true. It took Lion only one short meeting with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to secure an unprecedented sum of money from the government for the city’s needs. Lion demonstrated how serious he is by submitting a five-year plan for the city, but Kahlon agreed to grant NIS 950 million even before examining the plan. So regarding the matter of good relationships with the right people benefiting the city, Lion is fulfilling his promises.
The mayor was convinced that forming a coalition would not be an overly formidable task, but he has run into difficulties. Although his electoral victory was clear, it was not a sweeping one. Only some 3,000 votes separated him from his opponent, Ofer Berkovitch. Further complicating things is the antagonism between the two key haredi parties: Degel HaTorah and Agudat Israel. This split may have worked in his favor on election day, but now presents an obstacle to coalescing the large coalition that Lion envisions to advance his ambitious plans for the next five years.
On his way to finalizing agreements with each of the lists elected to the council, Lion ran out of “gifts” rapidly. There are no secrets or surprises here – in order to obtain the agreement of a list to enter your coalition, one has to give something, namely the title of deputy mayor, which comes with a nice NIS 44,000 monthly salary. Lion understands this, but the law limits the number of salaried deputy mayors. Jerusalem, being the country’s largest city, is permitted eight deputy mayors.
Two weeks ago, re-elected Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai requested and received permission from the Interior Ministry for an additional deputy mayor, arguing that otherwise he wouldn’t be able to form a coalition. Eyeing this as the solution to his problems, Lion quickly submitted a similar request. Being able to appoint a ninth deputy mayor could ensure him the coalition of his dreams. He probably was guardedly confident that his friend Interior Minister Arieh Deri would be happy to leverage the Huldai precedent to help him; unfortunately for Lion, Deri refused.
“Tel Aviv municipality is rich; they can afford one more deputy mayor. That is not the case of the Jerusalem municipality, which has just received a large sum of money from the government to enable important programs for the benefit of the residents – not to be used for another salary,” was the answer Lion received.
Lion is now back to square one, as he ran out of means to induce more participants to join his coalition – especially in light of the fact that Berkovitch, head of Hitorerut, the largest council list, doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to enter. Consequently, Lion’s coalition is comprised of small lists, mostly religious and haredi, preventing him from presenting himself as mayor of all the city’s residents. For now, besides Hitorerut (seven seats), even Aguda (three seats), which openly supported him during the elections, is out of the coalition. This is a situation that Lion never expected to face.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>