Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit is looking for someone the caliber of Yeroham Mayor Amram Mitzna to become mayor of the troubled Negev development town of Arad, Kadima officials said Tuesday.
Since former interior minister Ophir Paz-Pines appointed Mitzna to replace fired Yeroham mayor Baruch Elmakies in November 2005, he has been credited with rehabilitating the desert town. Kadima officials said they expected Sheetrit to appoint a senior politician with a similar stature from the party.
"He is looking for a Mitzna who will put things in order," a senior Kadima official said. "I hope a serious appointment is made and not a political one. It would be grave if it's just someone looking to get a job for a couple years."
Sheetrit fired Arad Mayor Moty Brill and his entire city council Monday after a hearing with Interior Ministry Director-General Aryeh Bar. A ministry spokesman said the reason for the firing was that Brill had not succeeded in passing his 2007 municipal budget more than eight months into the year.
Brill, who joined Kadima last year, gradually lost the support of his political allies on the city council, making it impossible for him to pass the budget and other important city business.
"Neither the mayor nor the council members fulfilled their responsibilities," a ministry spokesman said. "They never reached an agreement on the priorities of the city."
Brill reacted angrily to the decision, calling it illegal and vowing to get the decision overturned by Israel's Supreme Court. The court was expected to deliver a verdict by Wednesday. Legal officials said it was very unlikely that the court would overturn the ministry's decision, but Brill said he thought otherwise.
"I do not have any parting words yet, because I will remain in office until at least the end of my term," Brill said. "We are trying to get things reversed. But it's just a job. It's not my life."
Sheetrit is expected to make a decision on who will replace Brill in upcoming days. The deputy head of the ministry's southern region, Avi Heller, was appointed interim mayor Monday for a period that he said could last anywhere from one day to one month.
Heller is a lieutenant colonel in the IDF reserves who recently served for two years as the acting chairman of the Ramat Hovav local industrial council.
A former nuclear engineer at Israel's unacknowledged nuclear reactor in Dimona, Brill was elected mayor in November 2003, replacing veteran mayor Bezalel Tabib, who retired after 15 years in office.
In his first months in office, Brill challenged the Welfare Ministry, took on the Knesset's Social Affairs Committee, sparred with the Mekorot water company, endured a strike and survived an earthquake.
He then had a high profile fight with the mayor of the nearby Tamar Regional Council, Dov Litvinoff. At the height of the dispute, Brill climbed Masada and stayed there for weeks to protest Tamar getting property tax revenues he thought his city deserved.
The city continued to face problems during Brill's tenure, culminating with his departure on Monday. A group of Russian immigrant activists in Arad who actively worked to get Brill fired celebrated his departure with a "victory toast" on Monday night.
"It's sad that it got to this stage," said Shmuel Riffman, who is mayor of the nearby Ramat Hanegev Regional Council. "As a mayor, you have to find the balance between serving the citizens, working with people and the national government. You can't have a war on eight fronts at the same time. You have to pick your battles. Even a man with the skill of Napoleon couldn't handle a war on too many fronts."