Marciano for mayor?

The former Labor MK believes he will win the Lod leadership race.

Marciano 521 (photo credit: ‘Every single resident of Lod understands that I a)
Marciano 521
(photo credit: ‘Every single resident of Lod understands that I a)
When Yoram Marciano was in ninth grade, his teacher at the Shakdiel High School in Lod, Leah Katz, approached him and reprimanded him for the thousandth time that he must show up for class and not just come to take the tests.
“Don’t worry about my studies,” he told his teacher with a smile. “In any case, I’m going to be the mayor, because that’s what interests me. If there were a school that taught how to become a mayor, I would go there instead.”
Since then, he has come a long way in local and national politics, including his most recent position as a Labor Party Knesset member. He was in charge of social issues in his party, and pushed forward eight bills in the Knesset during his short-lived tenure. However, he will forever be remembered for his tussle with security guards at the Rio nightclub in Herzliya, which ended with no indictment.
Marciano has never given up his dream of becoming mayor of Lod. But only now, three months after proclaiming in the Knesset that he is leaving Labor and giving his support to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has he decided to fulfill this dream.
Last month, he hung prominent posters at the entrance to Lod that read “Lod needs a strong mayor.” Like him. The election campaign officially began on Tuesday, when he declared his candidacy.
One of the names on his party list happens to be his former teacher, Katz. And he has never been prouder than when his three closest friends – Bat Yam Mayor Shlomi Lahiani, Ramat Hasharon Mayor Itzik Rauchberger and Yehud-Monosson Mayor Yossi Ben-David – all came to support him at the campaign launch. In his mind, these three personages represent the ultimate model for the professional management of cities (even though all three of them are being investigated by the police).
Your campaign has just begun, and yet you are acting as if you were already the mayor. What if you lose?
There is no chance of that happening. I will win easily, just as the polls prove. Every single resident of Lod understands that I am the only person capable of saving this city. I have the connections and the skills necessary to accomplish this. I know what I’m doing here, and I give everyone hope.
I’ve had the desire to be mayor since I was 10 years old, and this dream will finally come true during the upcoming election. I will revolutionize Lod and turn it into one of Israel’s leading cities.
You don’t have any doubts at all?
I assure you, you are currently sitting across from the next mayor of Lod.
How much will the infamous incident in which you were involved affect the campaign?
There is no doubt that my opponents will publicize it, but I will remain open. I paid a heavy price for something that I didn’t do. I was simply trying to help a solider who was getting beaten up by the club’s security guards. And the case was closed without an indictment against me.
However, had the incident never occurred, I would still be an active MK, and maybe even voted in for a second term. But after the affair, something broke inside me. My confidence fell, and it felt like people had turned against me. There were times that I wanted to throw it all away and go home. Two years later, I resigned from the Knesset and only came back for six weeks when [then-Labor MK] Amir Peretz resigned [last year to join Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua Party].
Which is another act that you did with fanfare. You surprised the plenum when you declared your support for Netanyahu as prime minister just after you were sworn in as a Labor MK.
I believe that in the current political situation, he is the most appropriate candidate. I trust him on security and political issues.
Do you still feel that way?
Yes. Netanyahu was elected, and we all need to unite around him. If we were to hold a new election with the same candidates, I would still choose Netanyahu.
Is there any chance that you’ll tell us whom you voted for in the latest election?
For the very first time in my life, I did not vote Labor, and did not take this decision lightly. I voted for Likud. Yes, this time I voted Likud.
MARCIANO’S FIRST and only term as an MK began in April 2006, and he got off to a strong start. He used his sharp tongue, his booming voice and his intimidating behavior in his campaign to further social issues, which brought him lots of attention. But the first year passed quickly, and in March 2007 the tides turned. Following a night out at a club and a bit of alcohol, his career came crashing down, and he was ousted from the Labor leadership.
“This was an incident involving pettyminded police officers who wanted to get ahead at my expense,” he says scornfully as if the incident took place just yesterday. “I was attending a birthday celebration for [Kadima] MK Yoel Hasson’s assistant, and had been there for exactly 30 minutes. I had one shot of vodka and was not drunk. When I was leaving, I saw that security guards were fighting with a soldier. One of the guards was about to hit a soldier on the head with a garbage can. I know the soldier’s father – he’s a senior police officer in Lod. So I took hold of the security guard to prevent him from hurting the soldier, at which point I was hit on my ear and my temple.”
Did you get mad?
I behaved like a model citizen and called the police, which turned out to be a mistake.
A police commander arrived on the scene, who took me aside and told me that the guards wanted to apologize. From my perspective, the situation was under control, so I drove home.
At 5:30 a.m., I received a call from a radio station asking if I wanted to comment on the incident. Only then did I learn that the guards had lodged a formal complaint with the police, claiming that I had attacked them. I thought for sure this was a joke. I got in my car and drove to the Herzliya police station and explained to them what had really happened. But it didn’t help. The next day, newspaper headlines claimed that I was suspected of sexual harassment. It was a nightmare. I wasn’t even questioned on this issue. Later on, by chance, I ran into one of the guards, who told me the policeman had informed them that I was an MK, and that if they didn’t file a complaint against me, I would file one against them.
So why didn’t you turn to the Police Investigations Department?
I don’t trust them or the police who want to make headlines at the expense of people who are being investigated. I saw this happen with my own eyes. As I was sitting across from the police chief at the police station, answering their questions, I received a text from my ex-wife that she heard on the radio that the Israel Police were planning on pressing charges against me. I then got angry at the chief and told him, “How dare you leak that information!”
Do you feel this incident is still causing you harm?
Sure. My image is that of a violent person, and I certainly am not. And then the police became even nastier. They investigated who paid for my drink, hoping that it would lead to a count of bribery against me. Thank goodness I paid for the drink with my credit card and not in cash.
THE TENSIONS between Marciano and the police have not come to an end. Four months later, he was caught shaving while he was driving, and the police officers claimed that he left the scene before they were able to write him a ticket. In addition, a quick computer search shows that Marciano has amassed 70 traffic violations.
“And this is worth reporting?” he grumbles.
“Two stupid volunteers told me to pull over and asked me for my car registration. I admitted that I shouldn’t have been shaving while driving, and I waited for them to finish.
“Twenty minutes passed, then 30, and these two guys still can’t figure out which violation to write on the ticket. I told them I was in a hurry, but they ignored me. I asked them write down my address and send me the ticket by mail, but they still ignored me.
So I drove away. And then a few minutes later, I hear Hadas Shteif, the police correspondent for Army Radio, stating for everyone to hear that I fled from the police.”
Asked why he has so many traffic violations, he says, “I’ve been using drivers for 10 years. These are all parking tickets. I only received one speeding ticket. And I’m not proud of it. I apologize. I made a mistake.”
The 48-year-old Marciano grew up in Lod, the child of aging parents who had made aliya from Morocco, and a relative of Sa’adia Marciano of Jerusalem Black Panther fame.
His mother, who still lives in Lod, worked as a kindergarten assistant. His father, who for years served as the Lod Labor Council secretary and who was loyal to the Peres camp from the Mapai days, was the one who planted the seeds of political ambition in him.
Straight after his military service in the Golani Brigade, Marciano co-founded the Sharett neighborhood committee in Lod. He also joined the young guard of the Labor Party.
“Joining the Labor Party was quite an unusual thing here in Lod,” he laughs.
At the age of 29, he moved up to the big leagues. This was just after Shimon Peres’s dirty trick (his failed attempt in 1990 to form a narrow coalition made up of left-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties).
“Three of us young guys arrived on the scene to help him,” he recalls. “Eitan Cabel, Bahira Bardugo and myself. I was Peres’s assistant for eight years, and I worked night and day. I learned everything I know from him.”
Over the years, Marciano served as the political adviser to Dalia Itzik, as well as to Peres in the Foreign Ministry, and later moved with him to the Prime Minister’s Office. Later, they went their separate ways, and Marciano served as a city councilman in Lod and as well as deputy mayor.
In 2006, he returned to national politics.
As a young, successful MK, he succeeded in pushing through laws aimed at assisting the disabled, the elderly, and people entitled to public housing. But the case that attracted the most public attention was the amendment allowing billboards on the Ayalon Highway.
Those opposing the amendment claimed that Marciano had succumbed to the interests of the tycoons, and his heated exchanges with media personality Avri Gilad led to an imitation of him on the popular TV show Eretz Nehederet. This was not Marciano’s finest hour, with the club incident hovering in the background.
In the next election, in February 2009, he was ranked No. 17 and was left out of the Knesset. He turned to the private sector and founded a consulting firm specializing in bureaucratic and strategic issues, while in the back of his mind he fantasized about running for mayor of Lod earlier than he had expected.
And then suddenly, as the 18th Knesset was coming to a close, he was called upon to fill Peretz’s seat.
On the day he was sworn into the Knesset – December 20, 2012 – Marciano told all those present that he would always do what he believed in, and in an unprecedented act, declared that he was leaving Labor and would support Netanyahu. In his speech, he spoke about the Labor leadership, which had led to Peretz’s departure.
Did you prepare your speech ahead of time, or was it a spontaneous move?
I had been preparing it for over two weeks, and I thanked the Almighty for granting me the opportunity to stand on the podium in the Knesset and say what I had to say. Some people thought I was declaring my support for Netanyahu because I wanted to run for mayor of Lod with Likud backing, but as you can see, I am running as an independent, with a party called One Lod.
There was criticism of your decision to be sworn in as an MK and then immediately announce your support of an opposing party.
Not true. I had the courage to say what I believe. I am angry about the way they treated Amir, who has contributed so much to this country. What’s immoral is not to put in a good word for the person who brought you into politics and took care of you.
How did you feel leaving after your 20-year stint in Labor?
I thought about my father, who spent his entire life as a Labor Party member.
The morning of the swearing-in ceremony, I visited my father’s grave and asked him for forgiveness. I told him that this would be the first time I wouldn’t be voting for Labor, and that I wanted him to understand why.
Standing there in front of the plenum was not easy for me. This was the first time I was declaring my support for Netanyahu in public. The tense situation in the North and the Iranian threat require that we choose a leader whom we can rely on, despite the fact that I disagree with his economic policies.
Have you come to terms with the fact that the Labor Party doors will most likely never open for you again?
Why would I want to return there? You will see that after I’ve successfully become mayor of Lod, everyone will try to woo me. I have committed myself to serve for two terms, and that is what I will do.
ONE THOUSAND people filled the Lafayette Hall in Lod last month to hear Marciano officially announce the kickoff of his campaign.
In an elegant suit and holding hands with his partner, Ariella, he mingled with his guests as if he were a groom who had just gotten married. He hugged Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, huddled with Peretz, and sat with Rauchberger, Lahiani and Ben-David.
How do you explain the fact that the three mayors after whom you chose to model yourself are all suspected of criminal offenses?
Were any of them convicted? All three of them are respected mayors. They are colorful people who are extremely hardworking and attract a lot of attention.
And look – all three of them were elected for another term.
And what if it turns out that one of them really did commit a crime?
Then he will go to jail.
If you are elected mayor of Lod, how will you deal with delinquency and drugs?
Not everyone living in Lod is a criminal or drug dealer. This problem exists in other cities as well. Of course, we need to deal with this problem, and to that end there are senior police officials on my list, such as former intelligence chief Cmdr. (ret.) Avi Cohen, as well as Central Investigative Unit Central Commander Yossi Boker.
They are respected officers, and their job will be to manage city security. I plan to establish a municipal security company, to have more police cars in service, and to work closely in cooperation with Lod Police. There is nothing more important than our residents’ safety.
There won’t be any drug centers, nor will there be anarchy. If I need to, I myself will stand at the entrance of the city to block drug dealers from entering.
There are two police officers and one high-school teacher on your party list. How will you fulfill the needs of such a diverse population?
Lod comprises many different communities, which is reflected in my party list.
There is the Arab community, Shas Party supporters, Ethiopian immigrants, other new immigrants, and secular residents.
The makeup of my list represents all of these communities. One candidate is from the religious community, one is a criminal lawyer, another lawyer is from the Ethiopian community, and others are from the military and from a variety of political parties.
I am apolitical and am making an effort to bring in people from a variety of communities. There is no room here for factionalism; I am connected to the Arab community exactly as I am with Shas. I won’t stand for anyone being skipped over because of his religion, beliefs or sexual preference.
HIS PATH to the mayor’s seat, however, is not going to be a smooth ride. There are two other candidates who plan to run against him. One is Yair Ravivo, director-general of the municipality, who is backed by Transitional Committee head Meir Nitzan, and the other is Amos Hajaj, a former military man who recently moved to Lod.
Offering his thoughts on his opponents, Marciano notes that “Hajaj ran for mayor in the past, but was disqualified since he didn’t reside in Lod, and Ravivo is a great guy, very nice. If he’s interested, I’d be happy to invite him to head the cultural department. He is not experienced enough to be mayor. Lod needs someone with connections. It would take Ravivo the entire term just to learn which government ministry does what.”
However, Nitzan and Ravivo feel otherwise.
“We are interested in actions, not in words,” Nitzan says. “We all know Marciano and what his motives are. In the past, he served as deputy mayor and was a city councilman, at a time when Lod was deteriorating. I became involved then in order to take control of the situation. His lust for power knows no bounds. It would be better for him to search for a place where he can put his skills to use, rather than attacking and degrading people who are properly doing their job.”
Ravivo notes that Marciano “chose to begin his mayoral campaign months before the appointed date. I have never heard of this happening in other cities.
Fortunately not everyone can afford to begin their election campaign so far in advance.”
Along with Nitzan, he continues, “I have been busy running the Lod municipality for the last few years, during which time I have gotten to know its hardships and problems firsthand. I have been exposed to these problems and the residents’ hardships on a daily basis.”
He adds that “not only do I not have the time to run an election campaign now, but the law forbids me from engaging in politics at the same time that I’m serving as director-general of the municipality.
Marciano knows very well that I am a law-abiding citizen. At the current time, I know that the public appreciates our good work, and that I am contributing to the best of my ability to help our city. If and when I decide otherwise, I'll make an official announcement. Lod is where I was born, the city where my family lives, and its success and wellbeing are very close to my heart.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.