Despite support from senior non-hassidic haredi rabbis for Likud-Beytenu’s
mayoral candidate in Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, several ultra-Orthodox factions are
seriously considering not voting for him, or quietly backing incumbent mayor Nir
Sources in some of the haredi political factions told The
Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that some groups, especially the hassidic dynasties,
had serious reservations about Lion and were also worried about the political
ramifications if they back the wrong horse.
Earlier this week, haredi
news site Kooker claimed that the Belz Hassidic community in Jerusalem would not
be voting for Lion and would leave their voting slips blank instead.
source in the hassidic Agudat Yisrael told the Post that the report “had
foundation.” Avrimi Kroizer, Barkat’s adviser for haredi issues, told the Post
that the campaign team was “in dialogue with many haredi groups” although he
would not be drawn on specifics.
Kroizer said, however, that different
hassidic communities, as well as non-hassidic factions, do not view Lion’s
chances favorably and are therefore loathe to antagonize Barkat by backing his
rival, arguing in addition that Barkat had worked well with the haredim during
his first term.
Agudat Yisrael in particular, the hassidic party of the
national United Torah Judaism list, is being extremely cautious with regards to
its ultimate endorsement of a mayoral candidate.
Although Lion has met
with and gained the support of the most senior non-hassidic haredi rabbis, he
has not yet met with the Admorim, or grand rabbis, of any of the main hassidic
And on Monday, a meeting was held between Degel Hatorah MKs
and Lion without the four MKs for Agudat Yisrael.
Another group who will
seemingly not be voting for Lion is Bnei Torah, the rebel non-hassidic haredi
faction which has broken with the political and rabbinic leadership of the
Bnei Torah is running its own candidate for mayor,
Haim Epstein, and the party insists he will be not be dropping out of the
Yishaiyahu Wein, a senior figure in Bnei Torah, added emphatically
that there was “no chance whatsoever” that the party would back
Wein claimed that Lion’s campaign was the initiative of Yisrael
Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who Wein accused of “fighting a war against
“This is a reason by itself not to support Lion,” said
Kroizer said that Bnei Torah could muster as many as 12,000 votes
in the elections, for Epstein and the party list for the municipal
According to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, there
are just over 90,000 haredim living in Jerusalem over the age of 20 and out of a
Jewish population of just over 500,000 (exact numbers of those of voting age are
Wein added that Bnei Torah were “in cooperation” with
Speaking with the Post, another source within Agudat
Yisrael said that “some of the hassidic groups have already come to an agreement
with Barkat,” but declined to say which ones.
The Agudat official said
that the party’s MKs had skipped the meeting with Lion because it had not yet
decided on who to back.
According to the source, deliberations are
ongoing and the Council of Torah Sages of Agudat Yisrael will shortly convene to
rule on the issue.
He said, however, that there is a chance that there
will not be a united decision regarding endorsing any particular mayoral
The official noted in particular recent polls giving Barkat a
large lead over Lion among decided voters. The Ma’agar Mohot poll showed 44
percent support for Barkat against 13 for Lion, although 43 percent of
respondents said they were still undecided.
A large proportion of those
undecided are likely haredim who will wait for the official announcements of the
rabbis before deciding who to vote for.
The source said that there was a
concern that by backing Lion the haredim could endanger their relationship with
Barkat and that if polls indicated he would win anyway, this would not be a
politically astute move.
He also echoed Wein’s criticism of Liberman for
being an architect of the current legislation to draft haredim into the army, as
well as being part of the current government which has cut various government
welfare stipends and benefits which have had a significant impact on haredi
A source from Lion’s campaign said in response: “Nir Barkat’s
campaign is playing a double game with the Jerusalem public just as they did in
the last elections.
On the one hand they are publicly claiming that their
candidate is the secular champion by sewing fear against the haredim, while
privately behind closed doors he is making deals and agreements with haredi
representatives. This is how Barkat won the last elections but we hope the
Jerusalem public will see through this well-funded propaganda and spin.”