Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion shows confidence in coming election

Despite running third in the polls, Moshe Lion is absolutely sure he will be mayor

Moshe Lion (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Moshe Lion
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
When Moshe Lion ran for mayor five years ago, journalist and future Knesset member Yinon Magal caught him off guard when he quizzed him in a live online interview about Mifgash Hasheikh.
Lion, who had just moved to the city from Givatayim, was caught unaware that Mifgash Hasheikh is a popular bakery and late-night hangout in Jerusalem’s Talpiot industrial zone. He also did not know movie theaters operate in the capital on Shabbat.
The owner of the bakery is now one of Lion’s strongest supporters. But those were not the mistakes that made Lion lose the election.
Then-incumbent Nir Barkat beat Lion because he had secretly obtained the support of the Gerrer rebbe, the most powerful hassidic rabbi in the city. Lion, who thought he had the backing of all the city’s haredi (ultra-Orthodox) voters, was taken by surprise.
This time, Lion is again very confident of victory, after obtaining the endorsement of the rabbis of the haredi Degel Hatorah and Shas parties, as well as many traditional and religious Zionist voters.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post Wednesday morning, he downplayed and mocked polls indicating that he would finish third in the October 30 election behind Hitorerut Party leader Ofer Berkovitch and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin and not make an expected runoff race among the top two finishers, which will happen if no candidate gets 40% of the vote.
In the 24 hours after the interview, two more independent polls were published by media outlets indicating that Lion was about to lose.
A Geocartography poll taken for the Kol Ha’ir weekly predicted Berkovitch would get 29.1% of the vote, Elkin 28.2%, Lion 17.9%, Deputy Mayor Yossi Daitch 8.6% and former city attorney Avi Salman 1.4%, with 22.8% undecided or not voting.
A Ma’agar Mohot survey for the Israel Hayom daily said 28% backed Berkovitch, 16% Elkin, 13% Lion, 12% Daitch, and 30% were undecided.
“Our data indicate that Moshe Lion will win, apparently in the first round,” the Lion campaign said in response. “Any professional who examines the data knows this! Support for Lion keeps rising, and that support comes from all sectors of the public.”
Asked what he would do to help English-speaking immigrants to the city, he said English-speakers were set, and he would help the French. When asked if he has been to a Reform synagogue, he said no, due to religious reasons, even though Orthodox rabbis have been to Reform temples around the world.
Lion was unaware a rock had been thrown at worshipers at the capital’s Anglo-dominated Kol Haneshama Reform synagogue during Simhat Torah celebrations. Nevertheless, perhaps the results on October 30 and the expected November 13 runoff, will prove Lion and his confidence in the interview justified.
Your polls show you have the election won, so tell readers why they should vote.
The polls are not objective, because one pollster works for Berkovitch and another for Daitch. I had much wider support in the public when a poll said I had only 11%, and since then my support has only risen. Remember that, over the past five years, I have been a very active city council member, holding the neighborhoods portfolio, which kept me in touch with neighborhood activists. I have had great accomplishments, and I see their appreciation in their support for me.
Why should haredi support for you not scare away non-haredi voters?
My support from Degel and Shas, with God’s help, will give me victory in the first round. Remember, the demographic situation indicates that a mayor cannot be chosen in Jerusalem without the support of haredim. Their support adds to the very wide backing I get from the general public. If someone is scared of haredim, he needs to understand I can unite all the sectors. I have experience as former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, and one of my main skills is to bring about dialogue with all the sectors.
What would you say to persuade the paper’s readers who call themselves pluralist to vote for you?
We need to improve quality of life in the city. A mayor must be able to run a city and have connections to government offices. I proved my connections by resolving the crisis between Barkat and the Finance Ministry. I met with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and ministry professionals. As a council member, I brought funding to the city from government ministries. As head of the Jerusalem Development Authority for six years, I brought millions to build First Station, Hamesila Park and other projects. I want to build tens of thousands of housing units for young families and many offices to provide employment. Companies want to come because of the quality of residents. They don’t have where to sit.
Quality of life also means cleanliness, and a poll found Jerusalem the dirtiest city. As Jerusalem affairs minister, Elkin didn’t do anything to make the city clean. Daitch didn’t ask for extra money for that as deputy mayor. I will clean up the city in my first year in office.
Also, I have the ability to unite everyone and allow everyone to live how they want to.
If we are talking pluralism, have you prayed at a Reform synagogue? Did you know one in Jerusalem was just vandalized?
I have never been in a Reform synagogue. I am against vandalism everywhere. But that wouldn’t make me go to a Reform synagogue. It’s against my faith.
You have said you back the status quo at the Kotel. Does that include the egalitarian prayer site built by Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett?
I support the status quo, but it is not the mayor who sets it. I am for separation of men and women at the Kotel.
Why did you refuse to debate Elkin’s No. 2, Fleur Hassan-Nahum, at Rene Kassin school on Tuesday?
It was supposed to be a debate with Berkovitch and Elkin. I don’t have to speak with Elkin’s No. 2 or 3. She was wrong to accuse me of chauvinism and ask me to apologize for not sitting with her. I wouldn’t sit with Elkin’s No. 2 if he was a man either. He [Elkin] should apologize for not bothering to come.
Who are your candidates for city council?
My No. 2 is Ofer Ayubi, a businessman who has for six years headed the neighborhood council of Gilo, a neighborhood of 50,000 people. I want behind me someone like him who has accomplished a lot. My No. 3 is Keren Shimoni, a young head of a workers union, who is active in society and against chauvinism. Fourth is Yoel Burstein, who represents the French community and will get the immigrant absorption portfolio.
After criticism that the focus of campaign coverage has been mudslinging and not on concrete plans for the city, Elkin invited 20 journalists, who heard him explain his plans for the city for an hour uninterrupted. What is your plan?
My plan is the same. But my people can implement it, not just promise. I am a doer. What is different is I believe in building by internal urban renewal, not harming the environment by expanding the city. I would also build thousands of offices. Companies want to come, because we have 7% tax instead of 14% like in the center of the country. We have the Hebrew University, Hadassah and Shaare Zedek hospitals and immigrants. Companies want to come. I am in touch with them. But Jerusalem start-ups move to Herzliya because there are no offices for them here.
You mentioned immigrants. What would you do to help and better absorb English-speaking immigrants to the city?
The French are really suffering. They have no approach to city services. They don’t feel people pay attention to them. I got them a special budget in Har Homa. I want them to feel they are taken into account.
English-speakers are more set than the French, but I want to help them, too. Immigrants are an important part of Jerusalem. When there were problems for English-speakers, I helped them. It’s important that there be an ear for them. I will give the absorption portfolio to Burstein, and he will help.
What is your platform on education?
Diminishing gaps and helping pupils from poor neighborhoods to give them equal opportunities. I back giving a free after-school activity for every child. The cost of borrowing books will go from NIS 200 to zero. I don’t want parents to be hurt.
What is your message to readers around the world?
Jerusalem is the love of my life. It’s a national mission. I will maintain its beauty and the balance of its sectors and quality of life with full force and seriousness.