Game over?

On to the second and final round: Ofer Berkovitch versus Moshe Lion.

"childen "vote" in Jerusalem's Municipal Elections, October 30, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
"childen "vote" in Jerusalem's Municipal Elections, October 30, 2018
The main election season has drawn to a close and as we move into the “sudden death” final round, we pause to look back at the path that brought us here.
The campaign preseason kicked off a year ago. The first banners and posters that appeared were those of candidate Avi Salman, who was off and running long before exiting Mayor Nir Barkat officially announced his decision to quit Safra Square. It took a long time for the other candidates to swing into noticeable action. The pace picked up on November 3 of last year when Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) put an end to growing rumors, resigned from his position as deputy mayor and announced his candidacy.
In a sense, Moshe Lion was actually a candidate since the close of the 2013 elections, when he lost to Barkat (after the Gur Hassidim shifted their support on the last day from him to Barkat) and announced he would remain in Jerusalem (having relocated from Givatayim) and run again in the next election. Minister Ze’ev Elkin was the next to declare his candidacy, and the final hat in the ring was that of haredi candidate Yossi Daitch (Agudat Israel), who finally made it official only about a month ago during Sukkot. Along the way, Yossi Havilio and Haim Epstein entered and exited the race, declaring their support, respectively, for Berkovitch and Elkin.
In countless parlor meetings, the candidates tried to reach out to the largest possible audience, but what happened with Berkovitch and Daitch surprised even the veterans of local campaigns. While impressive numbers of young modern haredi men seemed attracted to Berkovitch, no less impressive numbers of secular (or traditional) young men and women were drawn to Daitch. Observers say that this is more than a minor trend and that it has significant implications for the future.
Nasty social-media messaging depicting candidate Elkin as Gargamel, the evil character in The Smurfs animated TV show, was regarded by the candidates as a PR mistake and rejected by all, including Lion, although Elkin’s headquarters accused Lion’s supporters of creating the messages.
In a similar vein, Berkovitch was rumored to be a representative of the radical Left, financed by the New Israel Fund – a non-Zionist and a traitor to the city. The source of these aspersions has never been identified, but most Jerusalemites didn’t buy into it. By and large, the campaign remained relatively calm and focused on real issues.
Lion counted on the significant support provided by the largest part of the haredi sector – the Lithuanians of Degel HaTorah, the majority of the haredim. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, their highest spiritual authority, called for followers to vote for Lion, but Lion’s relationship with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman proved to be a cause for concern to some in Lion’s core support base.
The Elkin camp projected increasing concern as election day approached; the atmosphere became less and less enthusiastic. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was called on twice to urge the Likudniks in the city to vote for Elkin.
Salman attacked the media for not giving him the attention he deserved and for excluding him from the panels.
Lion drew criticism for somehow having his name appear on the ballot with large bold characters in contrast to the names of the other candidates.
Interestingly, Daitch charmed large parts of the general public, attracting prominent secular supporters – including many women – who were convinced that despite being backed by some of the most hardline hassidic rabbis, he would be a fair and independent mayor.
In summary, these elections expressed Jerusalem’s very local voice. Voters have crossed the usual lines in great numbers, with haredim voting for seculars, seculars voting for haredim, and secular and religious voting for the first serious Arab candidate. Moreover, there is an identifiable trend in the haredi sector, of the young generation voting independently – a departure from the traditional total obedience to the rabbis’ orders.
The Likud invested nearly NIS 70 million in all the municipal elections, about a third of it in Jerusalem. Between NIS 5m. and NIS 7m. was spent by each candidate for mayor in the capital – some from their own private pockets (Salman, Lion), complemented with funding by their respective parties and a small part from private donors. According to the law, in order to prevent corruption, no donation from a private source can exceed NIS 5,000.
On to the second and final round: Berkovitch versus Lion.