Corridors of power: Pre-election tension

Hitorerut and Yerushalmim are once again at odds – this time over who is to replace Merav Cohen, who has resigned ahead of her Knesset run.

Knesset 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Knesset 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The countdown to the next municipal election is gaining momentum, as is the mounting tension that goes with it. Now is the time for new alliances, new coalitions and, of course, new internal battles.
The 30 members of the next city council (31 including the mayor) will not have the best “jobs” in town.
Except for the seven (or eight, depending who is at the helm of the Interior Ministry, which has the power to decide) deputy mayors who receive a healthy salary (about NIS 37,000), a city councillor does not bring home the bacon, so to speak. City councillors, unlike Knesset members, do not receive a salary; but if they want to do a decent job (and some indeed do), they have to work hard.
The next municipal elections are scheduled for November 2013, but right now there are two major pieces of news coming out of City Hall in that regard.
One, for the moment, is the simple question regarding who is next in line in the Hitorerut party – a question that might turn into some ugly cases of power and self-interest. The other tidbit sounds quite interesting, even though it is still too early to tell what its chances are.
As some readers may remember, Hitorerut and Yerushalmim (those were their names at the beginning) merged into one party in the final days of the electoral campaign, ultimately admitting that there was no real difference between them and that it was in the best interest of the residents that the two join forces. But the interests of the public and facts on the ground (especially of the “ego” kind) are two different issues. In short, the two eventually split two years ago and have since kept a strict modus vivendi of cold respect toward each other. But now something new has come up, with the announcement by Hitorerut’s head, Merav Cohen, that she is running for the Knesset in the Tzipi Livni Party.
Cohen announced her decision last month and didn’t, at first, make any statements regarding her plans about the city council. Since then, she announced that she will be leaving that position and will be replaced by the next in line on Hitorerut’s list, namely Kobi Frig.
It is important to note that many people in Hitorerut expected its first representative on the city council, the charismatic Ofer Berkovitch, to return to the position, but he politely declined. Being a city council member, he couldn’t work, and that is not something one can do for more than one or two years, as he did.
But now it seems that being represented by Frig, who totally identifies with the goals of Hitorerut but hasn’t got the experience that Berkovitch and Cohen have, is the least of the party’s problems. City council member Rachel Azaria seems to regard the situation a little differently. She has found out that although the two parties officially declared that they were splitting as representatives on the city council, they apparently didn’t implement the decision legally. It seems, at least on paper, that the two are still one, hence it is not Frig’s turn to sit at the round table at City Hall but someone else on Azaria’s Yerushalmim list.
At Safra Square, opinions are divided on this issue, but most of the councillors expressed their shock at the lack of attention to detail with which the young generation represented by Hitorerut have handled that matter.
“It will probably end up in court,” said a city councillor from the coalition who wished to remain anonymous. “No matter what the outcome will be, it is already clear that it will not do any good to the image of politicians, even locals, in the eyes of the public.”
The other rather interesting piece of news at Safra Square concerns an initiative to combine a large group of parties and form one party representing all the non-haredi communities. That will include Meretz, Labor, Meimad, The Greens and a small group representing Hadash. Is there a chance for things to change? It’s too early to say, but it will be interesting to follow up on.