The brother of Bat Yam Mayor Shlomi Lahiani narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on Tuesday night when an unidentified gunman opened fire on him in the lobby of his apartment building.
Lahiani's brother, Avi, was only lightly grazed on his hand. Police have launched an investigation into the shooting, and said a number of potential motives are being examined.
Avi Lahiani owns Cafe Joe, situated on Bat Yam's promenade, which was the target of an arson attack two years ago. Police are examining the possibility that the attempted murder was linked to an extortion attempt or a dispute with underworld figures.
In a combative interview with Israel Radio on Wednesday, Bat Yam's mayor angrily denied that his family had a conflict with organized crime elements, and insisted his brother was the target of random violence "which is part of an ugly wave that is washing over us."
"My brother was shot at after coming home from work. Like a typical Golani soldier, he stormed his attacker, who fled to a waiting getaway car with a driver. My brother leapt on his motorcycle and chased the driver, but stopped the pursuit after they ran a red light," Lahiani said. "I hope he gets him next time, though we trust the police to do their job. A description of the car has been given," Lahiani added.
"Something is happening to us ordinary Israelis that we don't understand," Lahiani told a skeptical Israel Radio interviewer, who raised the possibility that the shooting was part of drawn out vendetta with criminal elements. "Yes, we have the closest of ties to the underworld," Lahiani said sarcastically. "I just completed a life jail term. What is this nonsense?"
Asked if the shooting was tied to the arson attack on his brother's cafe in 2007, Lahiani told the incredulous interviewer, "Bat Yam is one of the only places that does not suffer from protection money rackets," and added, "Bat Yam has no underworld presence." He continued, "What I'm trying to tell you is that something is happening to Israeli society. We don't know what can happen next."
A few hours later, a State Comptroller's Report slammed Lahiani for arranging for his wife to receive NIS 430,000 in fees for running the elections campaign of the mayor's party. In 2008, Lahiani was criticized by the state comptroller for promoting his mother to the position of manager of Bat Yam's kindergartens while failing to announce an open tender for the job.