Tiberias mayor Ron Cobi failed to pass a budget for the municipality on Tuesday evening just days after announcing his run in the upcoming elections for the 22nd Knesset under his newly formed Secular Right Party.
Cobi is known for his anti-haredi (ultra-orthodox) rhetoric, saying for example, “The haredim make up 22% of the total population in Tiberias and they must not reach 30%,” and allowing buses and local businesses to operate in the city of Tiberias on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.
Cobi has been colloquially called the 'Trump' of Tiberias, which he said is attributed to his dramatic public relations strategy during his campaign for Mayor in November of 2018.
The mayor’s proposed budget got six votes in favor of the motion and nine votes against it, making this the third time Cobi’s council failed to pass a budget, according to Ynet news. A hearing will be held in two weeks at the Interior Ministry to determine whether the council will be replaced.
On Sunday, Cobi announced that he plans to run for Knesset as the head of his newly formed party called “The Secular Right,” challenging Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beyteynu party.
Cobi told The Jerusalem Post
about his hopes of defeating Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party. He claimed that Deri has “destroyed local authorities and brutally interfered with the will of the voters.”
“The voters voted for Ron Cobi, and the ones that voted for the opposition did not know that instead of the people they were voting for, they would get Aryeh Deri,” he said, adding that he is unconcerned about the fact that Deri will be involved in making the decision about his potential replacement as mayor.
Cobi said his main goal in running for Knesset is to take over the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Ministry for Development of the Negev and the Galilee, which he calls the most influential office that impacts daily life in Israel.
“We want to give equal rights and funding to all municipalities, and especially help the north and the south gain more power that will promote these remote areas into growing areas that will bring a lot of welfare, better education, better housing and security,” he said.
Cobi added he is certain his new secular party will sweep votes from Yisrael Beytenu.
“The haredim [ultra-Orthodox] must be removed from the centers of power,” he said. “The war against the ultra-Orthodox began in Tiberias, Lieberman saw this trend and copied us, but he is unstable, going from left to right all the time. I have not seen him do anything consistently.”
Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer, who had originally supported Cobi’s move to permit public transportation on Shabbat, said, “Tiberias regained today what was taken from it years earlier – the right to choose,” took to Facebook to comment, speculating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is involved with Cobi.
“It appears Prime Minister Netanyahu is so hysterical that there is a fear he is willing to break the law and run straw candidates like Cobi,” he wrote. “The most significant question is whether the prime minister promised him, in exchange for his contention, a post-election role? Or did he promise to pressure Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to prevent him from exercising his authority and prevent C
obi’s dismissal from the post of mayor?”
Both Cobi and Likud spokesmen have denied that he and Netanyahu have had any collaboration, clarifying that Cobi has been acting independently.
Forer also wrote Cobi owes the residents of Tiberias an explanation.
“The man must give an explanation to the residents of the city for his actions, first and foremost about his failure to form a coalition and pass a budget, how in such a short period of time the city’s education system deteriorated, led to criminal neglect and dirty streets, causing total paralysis of the municipality,” he said.
Yet Cobi claimed that Forer was sent to attack him by Liberman and is producing and spreading “fake news.”
“Instead of focusing on me, he should be focusing on his own campaign. If a small story in Tiberias is drawing in the entire nation, we understand that they are afraid, they know that we are gaining power and they are losing,” said Cobi, inviting a debate between himself and the Yisrael Beyteynu head.
“If Liberman wants to have a debate, I will do it gladly on any stage, at any moment,” he said. “Everything I do is for the sake of the Israeli people, especially in remote areas…. I’m an independent person and leader. Nobody will be able to stop us.”
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