It’s 108 days before the elections, and yet most of the activity is still below the surface. There have been some posters, some exposure on the media networks, and occasionally a few private salon get-togethers – but the big “action” has not happened yet.
The haredi sector is not yet involved in the elections for the holy city, since the main efforts of the two ultra-Orthodox parties – United Torah Judaism and Shas – are focused on municipal elections in small and medium-sized cities – and their leaders are not focused on Jerusalem.
Chaim Cohen, head of the city council’s Shas faction, had a message that remains familiar and simple: There will be an effort to renew the success of the previous elections, which yielded five seats on the city council (out of 30) while actively supporting the only candidate so far – the current mayor, Moshe Lion.
As a general rule, during every municipal election period the question arises:
Is it good, and desirable, to run a haredi candidate for mayor?
With the exception of the Uri Lupoliansky episode, most rabbis and politicians in the sector believe this is not necessary, as long as the elected mayor sees allies in the haredi sector, understands their needs, and responds to them.
An Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox mayor may not be what is needed today, but what about a Sephardi ultra-Orthodox mayor? Unofficial reactions differ slightly.
The feeling among Shas voters is that the days when there was contempt and they were ignored are over, and perhaps the time is ripe for a haredi Sephardi mayor in a city that has a large Sephardi population.
Sources in Shas point out that today, Sephardi haredim are in a different place in comparison to the times when they had to plead for funds. Even Cohen, as chairman of the allocations committee, admits publicly that he favored the Sephardi public – although he stresses that he did not do it at the expense of other sectors.
However, while many would expect him to comment on the ongoing discrimination against Sephardi girls in haredi institutions, Cohen believes that since today there are high-level Sephardi educational seminars, he does not need to solve this problem.
What is the news on the pluralist front?
At the beginning of the week, the demand for a joint list of all the secular Zionist representatives was still an aspiration – or maybe just a dream with no chance to be realized. But currently, there are still no attempts to establish a joint list.
So what do those in the secular Zionist camp do in the meantime? Polls are designed to demonstrate who has the greatest chance to lead, and no less importantly, who has a better chance of bringing in the money needed for a successful election campaign.
In the meantime, the biggest concern is about the “soloists” – candidates running on their own behalf, who have neither a serious party infrastructure nor significant proof that they can deliver the “goods” but threaten to repeat last election’s waste of thousands of votes. For now, there are about three such candidates.
One standout is Yael Entebi of Pisgat Ze’ev, a neighborhood of 40,000 residents, who cannot be ignored. After a first term, Entebi failed to pass the 2018 election threshold, but she is back in the current race, and city council members Yossi Havilio and Laura Wharton are definitely not ignoring her.
Will Entebi agree to join a larger list led by one of these two? And who has decided that Havilio or Wharton would indeed be at the top of such a list?
For now, all this is unclear – at least until the results of all the polls are in. Stay tuned. ❖