Eli Cohen’s deal with Bayit Yehudi could sour some Beit Shemesh voters

The agreement came as a surprise to many Beit Shemesh residents, coming as it did on the second day of a poll whose loser was slated.

Beit Shemesh mayor candidate Eli Cohen 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Beit Shemesh mayor candidate Eli Cohen 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An agreement creating a joint list between the Bayit Yehudi party and Eli Cohen’s Shemesh Hadasha in Beit Shemesh may have soured some voters on the leading challenger to Shas Mayor Moshe Abutbol.
The agreement came as a surprise to many Beit Shemesh residents, coming as it did on the second day of a poll whose loser was slated, by agreement between the two leading candidates, to drop out of the race against Abutbol. While Cohen was widely seen as a shoo-in to win the poll, he did not wait for the results, but rather sealed a deal with the Bayit Yehudi party to take the top spot on a joint list, displacing local party head Aliza Bloch.
Cohen had been in talks with the party for several days before the announcement. Cohen, like Bloch and the other candidates belonging to the self-styled “Zionist camp,” believed that Abutbol was elected due to a split in their bloc in the previous municipal election in 2008.
The purpose of the poll was to make sure that such a split did not recur in October.
Residents took to Facebook to debate the development, with some saying that they “would rather not vote, or vote for Abutbol than accept a compromise,” one local told the Post. While such hotheads were outnumbered by those calling for cool heads to prevail, the sense of betrayal among Bloch supporters may lead a small but critical number of people to refrain from casting ballots, a move that could prove harmful to Cohen in what is expected to be a tight race.
“The numbers in this city are so close that the obstinacy of a few can throw things,” the local resident said.
Another resident who spoke with the Post said that after last week’s deal she had decided to vote for Abutbol. “Most politicians break their promises after being elected and not before,” she said of Cohen.
In a statement on Facebook, Bloch said she felt betrayed.
She wrote that on Wednesday, party staffers contacted her and “suggested that Eli Cohen be declared as chairman of the Bayit Yehudi party in Beit Shemesh and their candidate for mayor and I will take second place on his list.”
After refusing, saying she wanted to wait for the results of the poll as agreed, “it became clear that the Bayit Yehudi people had already closed a deal to join forces with Eli Cohen before speaking with me about it.” Bloch said that she “will not withdraw my candidacy for mayor.”
Despite Bloch’s critique of her party, however, not everyone agrees with her assessment that the matter of the deal was a betrayal.
One Shemesh Hadasha party activist who spoke with the Post said that instead of a betrayal, the deal should be seen as a concession of defeat in the poll after the first day by Bayit Yehudi, which decided to abrogate the agreement by bowing out gracefully instead of losing face when the results came in.
After the first day, he said, the pollsters decided to cease polling as the announcement of the deal would have rendered any subsequent results meaningless for their purposes.
Another resident, in a post on a community group on Facebook, echoed a sentiment that seems to be gaining ground, namely that “it doesn’t matter.”
“We need to put the past behind us... and stay focused on the important task of getting a good mayor in office, a mayor who will create a better planned city, a pleasant city and a city with the amenities that we all want.”
“Disillusioned? Get over it,” he said. “It’s politics. But we need a new great mayor. Kids disillusioned? Get them over it. We need their votes.”
Despite such sentiments, however, supporters of Cohen may face an uphill battle as some swing voters turn away from the leading opposition candidate for mayor in what is promising to be a close election.