Comedian Assaf Harel officially announces run for Tel Aviv Mayor

Harel to run against Ron Huldai, Asaf Zamir and potentially Stav Shaffir, Oren Hazan

August 7, 2018 16:53
3 minute read.
Comedian Assaf Harel officially announces run for Tel Aviv Mayor

An aerial shot of Tel Aviv during Israel's annual Independence Day airshow, April 19, 2018. (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)


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“The time has come to put an end to the rumors,” Comedian Assaf Harel said in a video announcement of his candidacy for mayor of Tel Aviv, some three months after Channel 10 reported he was set to run.

In a monologue he published Tuesday under the title “Tel Aviv, move forward,” Harel said: “It’s not a joke, I’m doing this in the height of seriousness.”

Harel used his video to attack incumbent Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, with sarcastic praise of his work.

“You’re probably asking why? Because Huldai is such a good mayor. He turned Tel Aviv into a city of the world, a rich city, he renovated Rothschild Boulevard, he does marathons. You’re right – what’s wrong?” Harel said.

Answering his own question, he went on to mention a lack of apartments, bad infrastructure, disorderly bicycle paths and sub-par education in comparison with cities of a similar status. He also flagged neglected, dilapidated sites, such as the Dolphinarium, Atarim Square and the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, which are owned by entrepreneurs and are planned to become luxury towers.

“Because if you’re an entrepreneur and neglect your property and turn it into a municipal hazard, you deserve a prize for the Tel Aviv municipality,” Harel quipped.

Harel, 46, aligned himself with the younger generation, saying that while the generation of Huldai, 73, dreamed of turning Tel Aviv into a type of Manhattan, the younger generation finds more appeal in cities like Berlin, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

He said Tel Aviv needs more affordable housing for regular Israelis rather than towers and complexes for the rich or for tourists.

Harel is a columnist for Haaretz and hosted two TV shows on Channel 10.

Last month Asaf Zamir, 37, Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv and co-founder of the Rov Ha’ir (“The Majority of the City”) party announced he would also be running against long-time mayor Huldai.

Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir, 33, is another possible contender though she has not yet announced her decision.

Harel stressed he is not running as a representative of any party: “I’m not going anywhere – I’m here to stay. If God forbid Huldai will be elected again, I promise to stay and to make an opposition like he never had before. I will fight for our principles as mayor or opposition leader.”

Controversial Likud MK Oren Hazan responded to Harel’s news by pleading for an endorsement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Hazan’s party Likud, for him to join the Tel Aviv mayoral race. He said the thought of Zamir replacing Huldai was a “bitter” but digestible pill, but that Stav Shaffir’s election would be a “national lack of responsibility that would harm not only Tel Aviv but the whole of Israel.”

“Mr. Prime Minister, I respect your request that I remain by your side in the Knesset but don’t abandon Tel Aviv. I implore you to give me your blessing to compete to be mayor. I won’t disappoint,” he wrote in a Twitter post.

Likud decided not to provide financial backing for party candidates to run for Tel Aviv mayor after polls found Huldai would easily beat any other candidate. For this reason Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis opted not to run.

Hazan has already shifted his official residence from Ariel to Tel Aviv to qualify as a candidate.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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