Analysis: How Mickey Levy aims to become mayor of Jerusalem

"My wife always says that she can't compete with my lover, and the lover is Jerusalem."

Mickey Levy 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Mickey Levy 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
"Mickey is very hurt at being passed over for the second time," a close friend of the ex-Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy said Thursday, "but he's already looking forward, and the first option he's checking is to run next year for [Jerusalem] mayor." Levy, for the last three years Israel's police representative in Washington, long ago had a well thought-out plan for his campaign in the municipal elections, which are set to take place in August 2008. But he had put that aside a year ago when he received assurances that he would be promoted if Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi, who surprisingly got the top cop job that Levy believed should have been his, was forced to resign by the Zeiler Commission. Karadi is indeed going, but Levy is not replacing him. And now that those promises have not been fulfilled, Levy and his advisers are reexamining that plan. Still in uniform, Levy can't formally announce his intentions yet. But in TV interviews Thursday night, he certainly didn't rule out the possibility and promised to stay in public life. To a direct question about the mayoral race, he answered, "My wife always says that she can't compete with my lover, and the lover is Jerusalem." The biggest problem facing any candidate trying to challenge the haredi hegemony in the capital's politics is how to motivate the normally apathetic secular and Masorati Jerusalemites to actually make the effort and come out to vote. The tactic Levy's supporters came up with was to maximize his popularity from the period in which he was the figure who most embodied Jerusalem's stand against the Palestinian terrorist offensive. To further enhance that appeal, they planned to include on his list of candidates for City Council two more well-known local figures, also deeply involved with that traumatic period of suicide bombings - Prof. Avi Rivkind, head of Hadassah Hospital's Trauma Unit; and Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, head of ZAKA (Disaster Victims Identification), which collected the body parts after each bombing. In addition to their identification with one of Jerusalem's finest hours, each of the three appeals to a separate demographic in the city. Levy is a genuine son of the working-class, traditionally religious neighborhoods. Rivkind belongs to the academic "high society." And Meshi-Zahav is hero to many of the young haredi generation, some of whom will have to be enticed away from voting for the ultra-Orthodox candidate, expected to be incumbent Mayor Uri Lupolianski, if another candidate is to have a chance of winning. Another member of his team is expected to be the long-serving Jerusalem Police spokesman, Shmulik Ben-Rubi, who will leave the force to become communications chief for the campaign. Another crucial part of the campaign infrastructure was supposed to be the backing of a former mayor, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is a close friend of Levy's, and another old friend, Olmert's long-serving secretary and main political organizer at the local level, Shula Zaken. Olmert and Zaken were important not only for their support, but also for their long experience in political fund-raising. But that part of the plan has fallen through. Olmert's Kadima party might have won the general election last year, but in the capital the party performed dismally, finishing fourth with 12 percent of the vote. Olmert has gone down to single-figures popularity ratings and his support in the municipal elections is not seen as a plus. Zaken is now a suspect in the Tax Authority corruption scandal, putting him out of Levy's campaign picture. Since the decision not to appoint him as the new police chief, Levy has not hidden his anger at the rumors that he was passed over once again due to his friendship with Olmert, who is currently facing police investigation. In a Channel 1 interview on Thursday, Levy acknowledged being a friend of the prime minister. But he will now seek to present himself to the voters as a non-aligned candidate. His team's main worry will be how to raise enough money to run an election campaign that will bring out the vote. One familiar Jerusalem figure being mentioned as Levy's new fundraising expert is Devorah Ganani, director-general of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which raises tens of millions of dollars annually from evangelical communities in the United States for Israeli causes.