lupolianski 224.88 .
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Aiming to regain control over Jerusalem, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu is urging Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel to run in the 2008 Jerusalem Mayoral race as the Likud Party candidate, officials said Sunday.
Kashriel, who is in the midst of his third term as mayor, met last week with Netanyahu, who prodded him to run as the Likud candidate in Jerusalem's next municipal elections, a posting that is considered to be the most prestigious mayoral position in the country.
The move comes at a time when the Likud seeks to regain control over the traditionally hawkish city, which has once been considered Likud turf, following the devastating loss it suffered in the last national elections.
Kashriel, a longtime Likud member who is widely respected in Ma'aleh Adumim and whose traditionalist and hawkish outlook could prove to be a boon for the beleaguered party, said Sunday that he had not made a final decision on entering the race, and that such speculation was premature.
At the same time, Kashriel said that if he decides to run he would form a multi-sector list, which would include both religious and secular candidates.
As a candidate for the capital's mayoral race, by law he would need to move to Jerusalem before the
elections, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Sunday.
If Kashriel enters the race, as is expected, it would pit him head to head against Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat, who is hoping to get the nod from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as the Kadima candidate in the race against a likely haredi candidate such as Mayor Uri Lupolianski.
Olmert's relationship with Barkat is tepid at best, however, with such an endorsement seen as far from certain.
The premier's close friend, former Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy, who had been considered as a top contender in the mayoral race, is thought to prefer the position of chief of police which he has long sought.
For his part, Lupolianski has sent out mixed signals over whether he intends to compete for a second five-year term.
His spokesman has repeatedly declined comment on the issue.
Jerusalem's first haredi mayor, or any other haredi candidate, would undoubtedly be the big winner of any city mayoral race with two prominent secular candidates, with the already low secular vote split in half.
In the last mayoral elections three years ago, the Likud lost control over the city after fielding a virtual unknown in the form of Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi for the high-profile post.
In that race, Amedi, considered a colorless third-tier politician at best, reached a "secret" election-eve deal with Lupolianski whereby he would be appointed both a deputy and acting mayor in exchange for remaining in the race and taking away secular votes from Barkat.