Moshe Lion announces candidacy for J’lem mayor

"Under me, the city will serve the people, and not the opposite," says former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Moshe Leon 370 (photo credit: Kobi Kantor/Wikimedia Commons)
Moshe Leon 370
(photo credit: Kobi Kantor/Wikimedia Commons)
Amid the historic and picturesque backdrop of the Old City’s walls, Moshe Lion announced his long-awaited candidacy for Jerusalem mayor at a press conference Monday evening.
Clad in a dark, pin-striped suit and light blue tie, Lion, who wears a kippa, was greeted with a standing ovation from his supporters at the event in Jerusalem’s Yemin Moshe neighborhood.
“I am proud and emotional to stand here and request your confidence in my run for Jerusalem mayor,” he said. “I am coming to Jerusalem out of love and concern. Jerusalem was always a part of me in every job I had.”
As the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, head of the Israeli Railways and head of the Jerusalem Development Authority, Lion has long served as a public servant within the capital.
Describing the prospect of becoming mayor as a “big honor,” Lion claimed that if he wins the October 22 election, he will care for all citizens of the city.
“Everyone who cares about Jerusalem knows that changes need to be made,” he said. “The time has come to put citizens of Jerusalem before everything.”
“Under me, the city will serve the people and not the opposite,” Lion continued.
“It cannot be that only foreigners will be able to afford living here.”
Zvi Chernechovsky, director of the Jerusalem Company for Community Administrations, described Lion as an empathetic leader, and dismissed Mayor Nir Barkat as not being “connected to the DNA” of Jerusalem.
“Lion... understands social justice,” said Chernechovsky.
“He can connect to all of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, including the eastern half. He is a man of vision and ability, who will not spend millions on ads and branding.”
Chernechovsky blamed Barkat for the continued exodus of young residents from the capital.
“He is disconnected from reality,” he said. “Creating false impressions of culture and taking credit for other people’s work is not an alternative to work.”
In terms of education, Lion said the city’s students “deserve better.”
“Jerusalem pupils deserve a better education in schools – that more is invested in them,” he said. “They deserve a better future.”
Eti Binyamin, former head of Jerusalem Parents Council, accused Barkat of hanging a “black flag” over Jerusalem’s education standards.
“Investing in education per student [in Jerusalem] is one-third of Herzliya’s [investment], one of the lowest in the country,” she said. “Nir Barkat is disconnected from the students and the education system.
“He invested money instead in ice cities and Formula One races,” Binyamin continued, referring to costly public events recently spearheaded by the mayor.
With respect to traffic conditions, Lion said his experience operating a large transportation authority positions him well to make infrastructure improvements.
“Residents of Jerusalem deserve to be able to get around without traffic jams, without potholes and with reliable public transportation,” he said. “Jerusalem requires a mayor who has run large authorities – who can obtain what it needs from government ministries.”
Discussing coexistence among ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews, Lion, who is Orthodox, said he encourages religious freedom, but stopped short of comparing his approach to that of Barkat.
“I respect Barkat but I’m more fitting than him,” he said. “I want all citizens to live near each other according to their faith. It is not relevant to say whether my approach to the haredim will be more or less than my predecessor.”
Despite Lion’s close relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman – and the endorsements of United Torah Judaism and Shas officials – he said he does not have an agreement with any party.
“I will form a wide coalition,” he said.
Speaking of his former Givatayim residency, which he recently replaced with an apartment in the capital, Lion dismissed the notion that he is not a true “Jerusalemite.”
“Moving here in the last few days is just a technicality,” he said. “I’ve been working here for many years, spending most of my time here, operating a business here and employing many people.”
Lion said even if he loses the race, he will remain in Jerusalem.
“I consider myself a Jerusalemite in every way,” he said.
In response to Lion’s announcement, Barkat released a statement Monday night describing his five years of leadership as mayor as a “revolution,” following 15 years of negative trends.
“Change in Jerusalem has been felt in every corner, and the city is developing in all areas,” the statement read.
“Employment growth has created 50,000 new jobs, I have reduced emigration of young people from the city and for the fourth consecutive year the number of pupils in the city has increased after a decade-anda- half of decline.
Barkat also noted Lion’s change of residency to the city as “strange.”
“It’s particularly strange that a man who lived all his life in Givatayim – never bought a house in Jerusalem, paid no taxes in Jerusalem or educated his children in Jerusalem – thinks he can run for mayor of the city.”
Barkat beseeched voters to continue “the positive trend” for which he said he is responsible.
“We cannot return to a period of rule [defined by] activists and political deals,” he said.
“We believe that the residents of Jerusalem will choose to continue to strengthen the city… to continue the positive trend today, tomorrow and forever.”