The winding road

Supporting Moshe Lion is crucial for a large part of the haredi leadership.

The Haredi leadership is still officially obliged to Moshe Lion... but only if Mayor Nir Barkat doesn’t run for a third term (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Haredi leadership is still officially obliged to Moshe Lion... but only if Mayor Nir Barkat doesn’t run for a third term
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Like a guillotine’s blade, the decision of Degel Hatorah (the Litvak part of the United Torah Judaism Party) fell on Jerusalem deputy mayor Yossi Daitch, sharp and painful. Less than an hour before Yom Kippur started, Daitch was informed the rabbinical leadership of Degel decided not to support his candidacy, but to support Moshe Lion, a decision which meant he couldn’t run. But Daitch surprised his sector and other candidates, and announced that even such a blow wouldn’t prevent him from fulfilling his dream: to become Jerusalem’s next mayor.
The Litvaks, who are the majority of the haredi sector, have been divided for the past few years, from when 10,000 of them joined the “Peleg Yerushalmi” sect founded by the late Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach. The sect opposes all plans to allow yeshiva students to study in universities or serve in the IDF.
It appears that these groups inside Jerusalem’s haredi society do not share the same interests anymore, as old and renewed allegiances appear – like the trend of a growing number of Shas traditional voters who prefer to give their support to a Sephardi candidate – i.e., Lion – than to continue voting according to the Ashkenazi haredi sector.
In the eyes of the haredi leadership, mostly the Litvaks, the identity of the next mayor of Jerusalem is only one aspect which concerns them. The draft bill and additional religious issues at the national level are no less important, perhaps even more than a haredi Jerusalem mayor. To that end, an ideally large haredi support for a candidate who may influence or promote haredi interests may be more important than the risk of running a haredi candidate who could lose, and leave them without any support at the Knesset.
SUPPORTING LION is crucial for a large part of the haredi leadership, as he is close to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Liberman’s draft bill is expected to soon be submitted for voting. Others in the haredi sector believe that supporting Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could be even better for their interests.
Until last week, Shas’s official position was that they would follow the Ashkenazi haredi sector, but have changed their tune since the Litvaks’ decision about Daitch. Zvika Cohen, the leader of the Shas list at city council declared September 20 that if electing a haredi mayor meant Shas’s Sephardim would have to renounce their requests, then “as far as we are concerned, Jerusalem will not have a haredi mayor.” On the ground, Shas’s situation is precarious.
Cohen’s declaration came in reaction to Daitch’s self-description, while still expecting his rabbis’ endorsement, that he would never consider himself as “representative of one sector, but would do everything necessary to serve all the residents of Jerusalem.” Cohen understood this as a hint to the secular sector, where Daitch has a significant support, mostly from the left side of the political map, who are concerned by both Elkin and Lion’s right-wing position.
As a result, for now – the Litvaks (Degel) will support Elkin, part of Agudat Israel will support Lion, Shas is still weighing the best option, while the eight rabbis from Agudat Israel who endorsed Daitch just two weeks ago have announced they continue to support Daitch and call on their fellow residents to vote for him.
However, the support of Degel for Lion has a condition – he will have to prove to them that he can win at least 30,000 votes. Otherwise, they will reconsider their decision, which means they could return to endorsing Daitch. This means that the votes of the moderate religious (those who will not vote for Elkin because of his association with right-wingers) and a significant number of seculars may finally decide the election’s outcome.
But for the political haredi leadership, there is even more behind all these aspects. “In the eyes of the haredi leadership, the elections in Elad, Beit Shemesh and other cities where most of the population is haredi are no less important,” explains a source inside the haredi elections team.
As for Daitch, he is adamant to continue, as he says he believes he may be the only one to unite all sectors – haredim, Sephardim, moderate religious and seculars, which is something that none of the other candidates can do for now. When asked how he could lead the city as a haredi, Daitch insisted: “I want to be the next Teddy Kollek, and I will prove that I can be a mayor for all.”