At one point during the initial onset of COVID-19, it seemed the rivals – Mayor Moshe Lion and city council opposition leader Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) – were about to declare a ceasefire.
They exchanged a few polite sentences, Berkovitch offered to add his volunteer teams to those operated by the municipality to help seniors and a meeting was scheduled between the two. But the meeting never took place, and the polite words soon gave way to the old mutual disdain.
The second city lockdown brought to the fore one of the touchiest issues of Lion’s tenure – his commitment to the haredi benches in his coalition. Berkovitch denounced what he described as Lion’s “total submission to the demands of the haredim, up to the point that it endangers the city. Lion has totally subjugated Jerusalem’s interests to his own interests.
“Being a mayor without a council list of his own places him completely in the hands of his partners, and in this dramatic pandemic period, he has openly elevated their requests over the interests of the city and the general population.” Berkovitch recites what he considers failures in Lion’s conduct:
“He refused to impose the lockdown on the haredi neighborhoods during the first round of the crisis, and now he is doing it again. We have requested that any institution which receives municipal financial support and does not observe Health Ministry restrictions be deprived of city support. He of course has not agreed to that.
“Moreover, Lion cooperates with the lack of transparency regarding the numbers of infected and ill in the haredi sector, as they request. We have no account of tickets given by city supervisors in cases of breaking the rules and so on. It is not only wrong; it is dangerous for the population of the city.” Berkovitch says that he learns every day about additional violations of pandemic rules.
“Last week, Lion showed up in a synagogue without a mask, without keeping distance; he was photographed with Rami Levy without wearing a mask; he didn’t go into isolation even after two of his deputies tested positive to the virus. That is not a good example to the public. He does not enforce the rules on his coalition partners who break them. He hasn’t personally followed the example of MKs and ministers who cut their salaries, nor has he encouraged his deputies to do so,” he declared.
“The list is long; I say that Lion cares more about his haredi partners’ interests than those of the city.”
Lion offered this scathing response, “Ofer Berkovitch hasn’t yet recovered from the results of the mayoral election [in November 2018] and hasn’t realized they took place two years ago. He continues being disconnected from reality and says sentences devoid of meaning. It’s about time he learns the facts on the ground and connects himself with reality.”