Tel Aviv: Battle for the bubble

The issues most important to Tel Aviv’s voters largely align with those of a left-leaning platform; social issues are dominant.

View of Tel Aviv (photo credit: Judith Goldstein)
View of Tel Aviv
(photo credit: Judith Goldstein)
Tel Aviv has long been recognized as one of the world’s most LGBT-friendly cities. As such, one might say the next logical step in its advancement of the movement would be to elect the country’s first gay mayor. Earlier this year, that seemed like a distinct possibility, when MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) announced that he would challenge Ron Huldai, the city’s mayor since 1998. However, more recent polling suggests that Huldai’s reign over the city will continue, with a predicted 53 percent of the vote in his favor compared to Horowitz’s 26%.
And then there’s Aharon Maduel of the Ir Lekulanu Party, who has largely been characterized in this election by his status as a Sephardi Jew. In an endorsement for Maduel over Horowitz as the best choice for Tel Aviv’s Left, Yitzhak Laor wrote for Haaretz, “Something can also be said about what the left has not succeeded in carrying out for decades: The hegemony of the Left, even as a symbol, does not need to be Ashkenazi.”
But Laor’s use of the phrase “the hegemony of the Left” is particularly interesting, since the lack of hegemony may prove to be its downfall, at least in terms of the mayoral race. Despite the significance of his run in terms of the prospects for more diverse political representation, his candidacy splits the Left’s vote. Although party affiliation is generally much less important on a municipal level than on a national level (Huldai, though endorsed by Labor, has no official party), that doesn’t negate the tendency of general leanings to dominate political races, and Tel Aviv’s mayoral race is no different.
At the end of the day, the issues most important to Tel Aviv’s voters largely align with those of a left-leaning platform. Social issues are dominant.
The degradation of south Tel Aviv, particularly around the central bus station, is a large point of contention, and the influx of illegal migrants there calls into question the place of non-Jewish immigrants in Tel Avivian society. The growing gap between the elite and middle classes and the lack of overall social mobility – the centerpiece of the recent social protest movement – are obviously significant issues for voters. But other issues, including the ease of immersion into Israeli society for olim – which hits close to home for Tel Aviv’s 15,000-plus English-speaking voters – as well as parking, public transportation and the state of the city’s parks – are high-priority as well.
On issues like these, Horowitz and Maduel have perspectives that differ enough to divide the Left, leaving Huldai’s majority perfectly intact.
Despite the security of Huldai’s position, many city council seats are still up for grabs. This will be where the real competition within Tel Aviv’s municipal elections lies. From Jonathan Javor, a London native whose platform focuses on easing olim’s integration, to Mutsim Ali, an illegal African immigrant whose primary focus is to find venues of cooperation between Israel and non-Jewish immigrants and refugees, to Hatufim star Ishai Golan, whose concerns include Tel Aviv’s lack of sufficient artist support. According to Golan, “it is important for me that I raise my children in a city that recognizes all of its citizens and that holds as central the principle of equality.”