In hassidic tune: an interview with haredi candidate Yossi Daitch

Despite that his decision to run had become public knowledge for a while, Daitch refused to give interviews and made a point to speak only off the record.

YOSSI DAITCH (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Yossi Daitch is not resting for a minute. In fact, he hasn’t had a moment of tranquility since he announced his decision last week to run for mayor, some say against all odds. Daitch has wanted to become mayor for quite a while, and this is far from being a last-minute and hasty decision.
After more than 12 years as deputy mayor, he feels ready for the job, and on top, he feels he can be the candidate who will succeed to gather around him several sectors of the Jerusalemite population. As of press time, he will have only 27 days more to wait and see if his feeling will become reality.
Despite that his decision to run had become public knowledge for a while, Daitch refused to give interviews and made a point to speak only off the record, or referred journalists to his assistants and close friends. This week, he finally accepted to talk openly and to explain to In Jerusalem readers why he believes he has a good chance in the race, as well as what his candidacy can add to the city.
How do you feel now that you are officially part of this campaign, especially now that a considerable part of your sector has refused to support you? Is it difficult to swallow?
First of all, I have no intention to be dragged into the ugly sides of a political campaign, I focus on the positive sides only. I strongly believe that while we can all disagree about a lot of things, we can still conduct a respectful dialogue, and that’s what I plan to stick to.
After the decision of the eight rabbis of the Council of Sages representing Agudat Israel, you expected that Degel Hatorah would join and thus give you a significant base of support. But this didn’t happen, and now we hear that Degel and Shas are supporting candidate Moshe Lion. What happened? What happened to the famous unity among the haredi sector?
They issued an announcement saying they will support Lion, but I say that this is far from being the end of the story. And I believe that I will bring them back to support me. It’s a campaign, we have about a month ahead of us. For now, it’s just a declaration, as far as I know there is no signed engagement and I really believe that if I work hard and act honestly, I have fair chances to change that.
Can you explain the diversity among the haredi sector, which was famous for its unity for decades until now?
I will not go into political commentaries, that’s not my expertise and not my task. I will do everything in my power to get the largest support possible. I know it may sound banal, I may sound naïve, or lacking political experience. But I am surrounded by some of the best experts in that field – Ya’acov Litzman and Meir Porush and Yisrael Eichler – they understand something in politics, and they all back me and tell me to continue and to believe in my capacity to win over. With a campaign that will address the logic and the common-sense, I am convinced that things can work. In any case, I will not be dragged into negative and offensive declarations.
I understand that you aim to reach non-haredi voters, right? You do not wish to remain exclusively a haredi candidate representing the haredi sector only?
True. I will appeal to the Jerusalemites, the haredim, the religious, the general public. I meet with all of them, so far I haven’t seen one case of people feeling uncomfortable by my aspect or my outfit. I can tell you that the numbers of the non-haredim who will vote for me will be surprising.
That may be the situation among left-wing seculars; after all, Pepe Alalu, the former leader of Meretz in Jerusalem and in the city council, have officially declared their support for you. But what is your position? Are you on the Left or on the Right, or indifferent to that issue, considering that Jerusalem is a widely right-wing city? Where do you stand?
I am a right-wing Jerusalemite. I have never hidden my opinions – a united Jerusalem is a major point in my views, and that’s how I want to keep it – united in one city. As a result, I believe that the Arab residents should receive equal services, like sanitation, infrastructure, education, and building permits, in order to put an end to the need for housing demolition. But yes, I am a right-winger. There is no other way if we want to say that we are sovereign in this city. This is what I have done all these years at the council, in light of this position, for Arabs and for Jews. There are many leftists in the city, who know about me being on the Right and who still support me.
Imagine you are elected mayor. Who will be invited to your coalition? If the Arab candidate to the council [Ramadan Dabbash] is elected, will he also be invited?
I will invite all those elected to join me. And when I say everybody, I mean everybody – Jews, Arabs, left or right, religious or not. After all, the municipal coalition deals with local issues – like managing the city, which is not dictated by someone’s political link to one party or another.
Let’s continue with the scenario that you are the next mayor. Who will open doors for you at the government to get the financial and practical support for the needs of the city? Will you rely exclusively on your partners from the haredi party?
I will talk to all the ministers, all of them. I am in good relations with all of them, from all the parties. I am sure that none of them will refuse to give me a hand and to support my plans just because I look haredi.
If you win these elections, that would mean that the very local Jerusalemite language, which can include haredim and seculars together, has won. Will you take it from there and create a new party that will have also non-haredim and women?
No. I have no such dream. I am haredi, part of my haredi world and a representative of my haredi party. But that’s not the problem, the issue at stake is if I will succeed to take Jerusalem to right place.
How will Jerusalem look like within a year from now if you become its mayor?
Jerusalem under my tenure will be a city where all sectors and communities will feel at home.