Lion hosts first J’lem council meeting without coalition

Negotiations still have not succeeded with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties and with the Hitorerut Party of councilman Ofer Berkovitch.

Moshe Lion: Ready for the complex challenge. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Moshe Lion: Ready for the complex challenge.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem’s newly-elected mayor Moshe Lion hosted the inaugural meeting of the capital’s city council on Thursday night, despite not having a coalition needed to run the city.
The new city council was sworn in at the event, including Lion, who became a council member despite his Yerushalyim Shelanu party winning zero seats in the October 30 municipal election. In an effort to build his political power, Lion merged his party with the Likud, which won one seat, and gave the head of the Likud in the city, attorney Elisha Peleg, a paid deputy mayor post.
But as of Thursday, the only other party that had joined the coalition was Bayit Yehudi, whose leader in the city, Hagit Moshe will retain her post from the previous term as deputy mayor and will hold the education portfolio. The deadline to form a coalition is only in March, but it is hard for the city to be run without one.
Negotiations still have not succeeded with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties and with the Hitorerut Party of councilman Ofer Berkovitch, who narrowly lost to Lion in the November 13 run-off race but won seven seats for his party.
A spokeswoman for Lion said talks with Berkovitch were “going in the right direction,” but he disagreed.
“There is a 50-50 chance I will be deputy mayor or opposition leader,” Berkovitch said. “Lion has not handled the coalition talks seriously. I represent half the city’s residents, and I am awaiting answers on how we will be able to help them.”
One of Berkovitch’s demands is that the immigrant absorption portfolio be given to Montreal-born city councilman Dan Illouz.
“The two biggest communities who make aliyah to Jerusalem are Anglos and French,” Illouz said. “I’m part of both of these communities and can understand the challenges they both face, so I think I could do the best job. But we want to also help Russian, Amharic and Spanish speakers.”
Illouz said he was emotional about getting elected to the city council.
“It is a nice story of a person born in Montreal who dreamed of coming to Jerusalem and now will be in the city council,” he said. “


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