A Jerusalem court issued an interim order late Wednesday barring Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski from firing a respected city attorney following a bitter dispute between the mayor and the city's top law enforcement official over a series of controversial municipal moves.
The decision, which represents a stinging defeat for the mayor, came three months after city attorney Yossi Havilio filed an appeal against his unprecedented dismissal by the city.
The appeal, which was also signed by six opposition city council members and was supported by Attorney General Menahem Mazuz and the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, was launched in June immediately after the city council voted 23-5 to oust Havilio in the wake of a series of legal losses Lupolianski suffered over the last two years for decisions he made in defiance of the legal opinions issued by the city attorney.
The Jerusalem Labor Court called the city's decision to dismiss Havilio a "head-on collision" between the mayor's decisions and the law, and blamed the mayor for the strained relations between the two men.
The mayor's controversial decision to oust Havilio followed a series of back-to-back legal losses he suffered after refusing to accept various legal opinions proffered by the city counsel, including one against illegal city funding for haredi private schools in the capital, and one against illicit political appointments.
Supporters of Havilio had called the unprecedented ousting a travesty of justice and a blow to the rule of law, while his opponents had said that he had to go - even if he was an honest official - due to tensions with the mayor.
The Jerusalem Municipality said late Wednesday that the city believed the court would accept the city's position on the issue in its final ruling.
"The city council's decision regarding the city attorney comes in the wake of serious defects in his functioning throughout all the years of his work, as well as a problematic personal work relationship," Lupolianski spokesman Gidi Schmerling said in a written response.
The court's unequivocal ruling was quickly welcomed by the Jerusalem opposition leader.
"This is a huge victory for the rule of law," countered Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat, who took part in the appeal.
"The court has stopped the mayor's attempt to dismiss the law," he added.