Jerusalem council member from Elkin’s party backs Berkovitch for mayor

Agudat Yisrael will likely not publicly back any candidate, senior rabbinical leadership of Degel and Shas to hold prayer rally at Western Wall Monday night.

Ofer Berkovitch campaigns with Olim. (photo credit: YANNIK LISSON)
Ofer Berkovitch campaigns with Olim.
(photo credit: YANNIK LISSON)
Yehudah Ben Yosef, the newly elected Jerusalem municipal council member for Jerusalem Will Succeed, the list which was headed by defeated mayoral candidate Ze’ev Elkin, has publicly backed Ofer Berkovitch for mayor in the run-off election on Tuesday. 
Should Berkovitch be victorious, Ben Yosef will serve as one of the deputy mayors. 
Ben Yosef’s support for Berkovitch is an important twist in the race between him and Moshe Lion, due to the scramble by both candidates to secure the votes of Jerusalemites who voted for the two candidates knocked out in the first round, Elkin and Agudat Yisrael’s Yossi Daitsch.
“Berkovitch will create a mosaic of Jerusalem humanity which will express multiple perspectives so that all Jerusalemites will see the city’s leadership as their representatives,” said Ben Yosef. 
Jerusalem Will Succeed is the party of outgoing Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat who has strongly backed Lion, and has been vociferous in his opposition to Berkovitch. 
On Sunday night, the Kan news network reported that Barkat had agreed to back Lion in return for support in the primaries for Likud’s Knesset list which Barkat intends to run in.
The report stated that Likud branch chiefs in Jerusalem had pledged some 4,000 votes to Barkat in the Likud primaries if he publicly backed Lion.
Barkat said in response the story was “total lies” and simply part of the election campaign.
In the meantime, Agudat Yisrael has still not endorsed either Lion or Berkovitch, and with less than 24 hours to go before the polls open it now looks like the hassidic party will not publicly back either candidate. 
Severe tensions have developed between Agudah and its fellow Ashkenazi haredi party Degel Hatorah over the municipal elections, and Agudah is now loathe to back Lion who Degel backed due to the numerous disputes that have erupted over the last few months between the two parties. 
Without a public declaration by Agudah, large numbers of hassidim in the capital will likely stay home and not vote, while individual hassidic communities may pull in the direction of either candidate. 
The bad blood with Degel could however sway some hassidic leaders to back Berkovitch. 
Degel and Shas, which also backed Lion, have called for a mass prayer rally at the Western Wall on Monday night to counter possible voter apathy among the haredi community towards the mayoral race. 
The rally will be attended by Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, the most senior Ashkenazi, non-hassidic haredi leader, and the head of Shas’ Council of Torah Sages Rabbi Shalom Cohen. 
The drafting of Kanievsky and Cohen into the mayoral battle indicates the importance for Degel and Shas of the success of their candidate.