Risky circulation

Moshe Lion's lead is being nibbled at by a growing list of new candidate

Moshe Lion (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Moshe Lion
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In our high-speed digital era, one little inadvertent push of a smartphone button can lead to a political scandal. This is exactly what happened earlier this week, when the rapid spread of a recorded conversation between candidate Moshe Lion and a senior assistant to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ruined – in a few seconds – Liberman’s efforts to conceal his backing of Lion for the municipal elections.
Moshe Lion is becoming the tragic hero of this campaign as, day by day, his position as the leading candidate for mayor is being nibbled at by a growing list of new candidates, some of them building their campaign on the same sources and parties of this city’s right-wing activists. While Lion is not the official representative of any political party, his roots are clearly in the right-wing sector. But, unlike what he may have planned, his position in that sector is far from being one of strength. On top of this, with the growing hesitation from the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector to continue to back him and consider him as their representative, his margin of support is narrowing daily.
Lion acknowledges that in 2013 his close association with Liberman – founder of the secular Yisrael Beytenu Party – and Shas leader Arye Deri turned out to be a major obstacle to his campaign. So this time, Lion has been very cautious, right from the beginning of the campaign, to distance himself from his “patrons” and present himself as the man who runs for the position as he is – with his expertise and experience as former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office – but with nothing that could link him to controversial politicians.
That seemed to be more or less working until last Saturday night, when a conversation he had with Liberman’s man over the situation in the campaign revealed that the two were simply building a case to tarnish Lion’s major competitor, Minister Ze’ev Elkin, in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eyes – and eventually get rid of him. The revealing recording that was disseminated by mistake on a WhatsApp group has put Lion in an embarrassing situation, to say the least.
However, that does not mean that Lion’s bitter rival is in a much better position. Elkin has, apparently, made two mistakes right from the beginning of his campaign. First, he didn’t show enough consideration for the Likud activists in the city, who form the most powerful Likud branch in the country. Among them, the positions are divided between Elkin, Adv. Avi Salman and a small part for Lion. Elkin, says one of these activists, took them for granted and didn’t consult them regarding the list he would lead for the elections (every candidate for mayor has to run with his own list).
It seems that Elkin got the list of the residents who supported and voted for Nir Barkat in 2013, and decided to use them as the bulk of his list, expecting full cooperation from the Likud people in the city. But surprise, surprise – that didn’t happen and for the moment, the Jerusalem Likud branch has officially informed Elkin that it will boycott him and refuse to support him.
However, it seems that this announcement was a bit hastily declared, since a large part of the Likud members support Elkin, with the president of the Mahaneh Yehuda merchants’ association Nino Peretz at their head. And Lion? Well, he is busy now trying to limit the damage caused by the leak on the WhatsApp.
Meanwhile Salman, the other Likudnik among the candidates, is silently but surely increasing his visibility in the campaign, with banners everywhere – while the core of Likud activists in the city, who meet every Friday at noon at the Mahaneh Yehuda market, sound totally sure of his victory. Another 109 days to go – stay tuned.