As the contentious Jerusalem mayoral race draws close to the October 22 finish
line, candidate Moshe Lion said that if elected he would take the east Jerusalem
portfolio away from the Meretz Party and either hand it over to a right-wing
party or expunge it entirely.
“One of my first acts as mayor will be to
take away the east Jerusalem municipal portfolio from the hands of Meretz,” said
Lion Sunday. “This portfolio was given by [incumbent Mayor Nir] Barkat to
[councilman] Meir Margalit of Meretz, who adamantly stands against Israeli
sovereignty over the ‘Green Line.’” The candidate added that by giving the
“extreme Left” power over east Jerusalem, Barkat’s stated rightwing credentials
remained highly questionable.
“It is absolutely absurd that a person who
rejects Israel’s presence in more than half of Jerusalem is in charge of what
happens there,” he said. “As mayor I will not give power to the extreme-Left
over east Jerusalem,” said Lion.
“That is an absolute red line for me,”
Asked what would become of the portfolio, a source from
the Lion campaign, who requested anonymity, said Sunday that if it is not given
to a right-wing party, it should be eliminated all together.
“If it does
remain, it must be kept in the hands of someone who has the interest of
maintaining Jerusalem as a united city at heart,” the source said. “The only
other option is expunging the portfolio entirely, because it recognizes a
division of Jerusalem, which is a problem in and of itself.”
comment Sunday evening, Margalit described Lion’s rhetoric as sour grapes
resulting from repeated failed attempts to get Meretz to join his coalition
since announcing his candidacy in late July.
“It is interesting to note
that in the last week [Lion] tried to convince [Meretz] to support him,” said
Margalit. “If Meretz is so bad for him, then why was he suggesting that we be
part of his coalition?”
Margalit added that overtures to his party ended only
after the party, along with Labor Party leader Shelley Yacimovich, recently made
it clear they were endorsing Barkat.
“Meretz has nothing to do with the
coalition with Lion, so the problem will not be what happens to Meretz, the
problem will be what happens to the city if someone like Lion is elected,” said
“We don’t care about Lion’s declarations, because we know he
has no chance of winning and that he will be sent back to
Indeed, according to a Ma’agar Mohot poll published Friday on
the cover of Ma’ariv
, the issue may be moot, as it forecasted that Barkat will
easily defeat his Likud Beytenu challenger.
The poll of 523 respondents
taken Wednesday and Thursday – representing a sample of the adult population in
the capital, with a margin of error of 4.5 percent – found that 42% support
Barkat, while only 14% back Lion.
Still, some 43% of respondents declared
themselves undecided two weeks before the election.
That number is
thought to include a large percentage of haredim, whose rabbis have reportedly
not yet dictated which candidate to support.
Meanwhile, Channel 2
reported Saturday night that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had sent letters
of endorsement to all 43 Likud mayoral candidates in the municipal races, except
Lion, who was director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office during Netanyahu’s
Netanyahu is considered close to Barkat, who recently named a
junction on Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin highway for the prime minister’s late
father, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu.
“I have no doubt that the prime minister
will support me in the end,” Lion told Channel 2.
With respect to
Meretz’s and Yacimovich’s backing of Barkat, Lion’s camp dismissed the
endorsements as coming “with strings.”
“Meretz and Yacimovich’s
endorsement of Barkat does not come without strings,” a source, who requested
anonymity, said Sunday. “They are supporting the person they most believe will
promote their plans for Jerusalem – and that is its division.”
added that during the last five years as mayor, Barkat has only helped the
extreme-Left gain control of east Jerusalem.
“We are seeing facts on the
ground being created, including a lot less demolitions of illegal Arab
construction,” the source said.
“This is no coincidence and is extremely
dangerous to the delicate demographic balance and the future of parts of
Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.”
“Jerusalem cannot afford another
five years like this,” the source added.Gil Hoffman contributed to this