(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem deputy mayor Moshe Lion received a major boost in the October 30 election for mayor from the Shas and Degel Hatorah parties when the two haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties endorsed him late Wednesday night after the Yom Kippur holiday ended.
Lion said the endorsements were “heartwarming and good news for the residents of the city.” He stressed that he had the support of residents from all sectors and would serve them all well as mayor.
But while Shas’s endorsement came without conditions for the religious Sephardi candidate, Degel Hatorah’s was preconditioned on Lion proving he had the support of some 30,000 non-haredi voters by the beginning of the Jewish month of Heshvan on October 10.
If Lion does not prove to Degel he can win the race, the party is likely to support his competition in the election, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin.
Elkin’s campaign responded to Lion’s endorsements by accusing Shas leader Arye Deri and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman of making a political deal for their own interests to take over control of Jerusalem at the expense of city residents. Elkin himself told Israel Radio that if elected, Lion would be a “puppet” of Liberman and Deri.
In the interview, Elkin noted that Liberman adviser Avi Abuhatzeira organized the meeting between Lion and Degel Hatorah’s spiritual mentor Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky on Monday night. He hinted that the endorsements could be connected to Degel supporting Liberman’s haredi conscription bill.
Liberman responded on Army Radio that Lion is his friend and hopes he wins, but he is not behind his candidacy and the bill had nothing to do with the election. He called on Elkin to “stop whining.”
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“If you’re a real man, say you failed and stop blaming others,” Liberman said. “He hasn’t even gotten the support of the Likud.”
Elkin responded that he has wide support in Likud and that he will win the election. He was endorsed Thursday by Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett.
Elkin is expected to receive the support of haredim from the Peleg Yerushalmi branch, whose candidate Chaim Epstein is expected to quit the race. He hopes to eventually receive an endorsement from the Agudat Yisrael Party.
But meanwhile, Agudat Yisrael gave its public support Thursday to Deputy Mayor Yossi Daitch Thursday afternoon, following the backing of Shas and Degel for Lion.
The decision was made following a meeting of the party’s “Committee of Eight,” including senior MKs and municipal officials such as Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, Mayor of Bnei Brak Hanoch Zeibert and others.
Agudat Yisrael believes it is very unlikely that Lion will be able to garner the 30,000 extra votes he needs from the non-haredi community to get into the second round of voting. Should he be unable to prove that he can gain the required level of support, it appears that Daitch is hoping Shas and Degel will switch their support back to him.
Shas and Degel’s support for Lion is part of a wider agreement between the two parties for mutual support for their respective candidates in Elad, Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem.
Degel has agreed to support Moshe Abutbul in Beit Shemesh and Lion in Jerusalem in return for Shas’s support for a Degel candidate in Elad, likely Jerusalem Municipal Council member Yitzhak Findrus.
Findrus could not be contacted to confirm the report.
In a statement to the media, Agudat Yisrael referenced this deal and Degel’s “behavior,” and said it could lead to a separation of the Degel and Agudat Yisrael parties in those cities.
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