Jerusalem elections: A game of musical chairs

It seems that at the next council, the national religious sector will be headed by two religious representatives who share almost all the same ideals but don’t speak to each other.

Rachel Azaria is running for Jerusalem's mayor at the head of the Yerushalmim party (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Rachel Azaria is running for Jerusalem's mayor at the head of the Yerushalmim party
In just 40 days – on October 30 – the city council’s 30 seats will welcome new members. While it is unclear whether there will be Arab representatives for the first time since the city’s reunification 51 years ago, we can assess who the most realistic candidates are for the next council.
Likud MK and Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Minister Ze’ev Elkin is heading exiting Mayor Nir Barkat’s “Jerusalem Will Succeed” list, bearing the same name and same program. This list presently has four seats. The Likud, which is not officially supporting Elkin, is running its own list, headed by former deputy mayor Elisha Peleg.
Jerusalem city council member Ofer Berkovitch, founder and chairman of the Hitorerut list, which has presently four seats, is Hitorerut’s candidate for mayor. Berkovitch says polls predict he will win seven or even eight seats.
Advocate Yossi Havilio is heading the Saving Jerusalem list, which recently changed its composition. Havilio and his former No. 2, Herzl Yehezkel, parted ways following Havilio’s pledge to keep entertainment and minimarkets open on Shabbat (Yehezkel is an active member of the religious sector). Both Berkovitch and Havilio seek to represent the interests of young adults and students.
Moshe Lion has as his No. 2 Yehuda Ben Yosef, veteran chairman of the Kurdish community in the city, and until recently chairman of the Talpiot Mizrah local council and community center. A number of traditional Shas voters support him and his list. Lion has declared that even if he is not elected mayor, he will remain in the council, unlike Elkin, who has indicated that he will continue as minister and MK if he is not elected.
Rachel Azaria is running at the head of the Yerushalmim list, which now has two seats and was the first to place a haredi woman – Pnina Pfeuffer – as No. 3 in its lineup. Recent polls show the list may attract enough support to secure Pfeuffer a city council seat.
All of the non-haredi parties have women in their list, mostly in realistic spots, except for that of city council member Arieh King, who declared that he follows the path of the spiritual leaders of the national religious sector, like Rav Kook, and does not include women in his list. On that issue, Hagit Moshe, head of the Bayit Yehudi list (to which, in fact, King belongs, ideologically) commented sarcastically that this is a new position for King, who didn’t seem to be uncomfortable with women in the list when he was still a member of the Bayit Yehudi list, a few years ago. Lion and Moshe each claim that polls forecast their own success and the failure of the other, but it seems that at the next council, once again, the national religious sector will be represented by two separate lists, headed by two religious representatives who share almost all the same ideals but don’t speak to each other.
Regarding Shas, winds of rebellion are blowing – including a protest held outside the president of the party, Interior Minister Arye Deri on September 15, warning that if some of their requests (mostly linked to national issues like the draft to the IDF) are not answered, they will not vote for the party’s council list.
As usual, the United Torah Judaism list is representing the Ashkenazi haredim – both the hassidim and the Litvaks, although it remains unclear whether Deputy Mayor Yossi Daitch will be able to convince the Litvaks to support his mayoral candidacy.
Ramadan Dabash, president of the Sur Bahir local council and community center, is leading an Arab list, all of whose candidates are residents of his neighborhood.
Finally, Aziz Abu Sarah is running for mayor. He cannot be elected as he is not an Israeli citizen, although he said he will take this to the Supreme Court. His list includes two other candidates, from Beit Hanina and Shuafat, but it is too early to say whether the list will win enough voters to be seated at the council.
Coming together
In a late development, Yossi Havilio agreed to join forces with candidate Ofer Berkovitch. At the beginning of the week, the two announced their decision to run together. Havilio is backing Berkovitch, but his Saving Jerusalem list will continue in the race for council seats and will give additional support to Berkovitch if he is elected mayor.
“I have decided to put what is best for Jerusalem over my own interest,” declared Havilio, urging his supporters and all “pluralist” residents to vote for Berkovitch for mayor and for his own list to the council.
Laura Wharton, head of the Meretz council list, congratulated the two for the decision and renewed her support for Berkovitch’s candidacy.