Amid the historic and picturesque backdrop of the Old City’s walls, Moshe Lion
announced his long-awaited candidacy for Jerusalem mayor at a press conference
Clad in a dark, pin-striped suit and light blue tie,
Lion, who wears a kippa, was greeted with a standing ovation from his supporters
at the event in Jerusalem’s Yemin Moshe neighborhood.
“I am proud and
emotional to stand here and request your confidence in my run for Jerusalem
mayor,” he said. “I am coming to Jerusalem out of love and concern. Jerusalem
was always a part of me in every job I had.”
As the director-general of
the Prime Minister’s Office, head of the Israeli Railways and head of the
Jerusalem Development Authority, Lion has long served as a public servant within
Describing the prospect of becoming mayor as a “big honor,”
Lion claimed that if he wins the October 22 election, he will care for all
citizens of the city.
“Everyone who cares about Jerusalem knows that
changes need to be made,” he said. “The time has come to put citizens of
Jerusalem before everything.”
“Under me, the city will serve the people
and not the opposite,” Lion continued.
“It cannot be that only foreigners
will be able to afford living here.”
Zvi Chernechovsky, director of the
Jerusalem Company for Community Administrations, described Lion as an empathetic
leader, and dismissed Mayor Nir Barkat as not being “connected to the DNA” of
“Lion... understands social justice,” said
“He can connect to all of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods,
including the eastern half. He is a man of vision and ability, who will not
spend millions on ads and branding.”
Chernechovsky blamed Barkat for the
continued exodus of young residents from the capital.
“He is disconnected
from reality,” he said. “Creating false impressions of culture and taking credit
for other people’s work is not an alternative to work.”
In terms of
education, Lion said the city’s students “deserve better.”
pupils deserve a better education in schools – that more is invested in them,”
he said. “They deserve a better future.”
Eti Binyamin, former head of
Jerusalem Parents Council, accused Barkat of hanging a “black flag” over
Jerusalem’s education standards.
“Investing in education per student [in
Jerusalem] is one-third of Herzliya’s [investment], one of the lowest in the
country,” she said. “Nir Barkat is disconnected from the students and the
“He invested money instead in ice cities and Formula
One races,” Binyamin continued, referring to costly public events recently
spearheaded by the mayor.
With respect to traffic conditions, Lion said
his experience operating a large transportation authority positions him well to
make infrastructure improvements.
“Residents of Jerusalem deserve to be
able to get around without traffic jams, without potholes and with reliable
public transportation,” he said. “Jerusalem requires a mayor who has run large
authorities – who can obtain what it needs from government
Discussing coexistence among ultra-Orthodox and secular
Jews, Lion, who is Orthodox, said he encourages religious freedom, but stopped
short of comparing his approach to that of Barkat.
“I respect Barkat but
I’m more fitting than him,” he said. “I want all citizens to live near each
other according to their faith. It is not relevant to say whether my approach to
the haredim will be more or less than my predecessor.”
close relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman – and the endorsements
of United Torah Judaism and Shas officials – he said he does not have an
agreement with any party.
“I will form a wide coalition,” he
Speaking of his former Givatayim residency, which he recently
replaced with an apartment in the capital, Lion dismissed the notion that he is
not a true “Jerusalemite.”
“Moving here in the last few days is just a
technicality,” he said. “I’ve been working here for many years, spending most of
my time here, operating a business here and employing many people.”
said even if he loses the race, he will remain in Jerusalem.
myself a Jerusalemite in every way,” he said.
In response to Lion’s
announcement, Barkat released a statement Monday night describing his five years
of leadership as mayor as a “revolution,” following 15 years of negative
“Change in Jerusalem has been felt in every corner, and the city
is developing in all areas,” the statement read.
“Employment growth has
created 50,000 new jobs, I have reduced emigration of young people from the city
and for the fourth consecutive year the number of pupils in the city has
increased after a decade-anda- half of decline.
Barkat also noted Lion’s
change of residency to the city as “strange.”
“It’s particularly strange
that a man who lived all his life in Givatayim – never bought a house in
Jerusalem, paid no taxes in Jerusalem or educated his children in Jerusalem –
thinks he can run for mayor of the city.”
Barkat beseeched voters to
continue “the positive trend” for which he said he is responsible.
cannot return to a period of rule [defined by] activists and political deals,”
“We believe that the residents of Jerusalem will choose to
continue to strengthen the city… to continue the positive trend today, tomorrow