A dramatic development in Jerusalem’s mayoral election Thursday night: according to Israel Hayom, Habayit Hayehudi party in Jerusalem and the secular mayoral candidate Ofer Berkovitch, who competes in the runoff election in two weeks, have cobbled a joint slate agreement, to be signed on Sunday.
Up until Thursday night, the common sense winner was going to be Moshe Leon, backed by both Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu). Incidentally, some have noted that Deri and Liberman, both of whom are no strangers to police interrogation rooms, should not be picking the mayor for a city that has seen two of its mayors ending up behind bars. But I digress.
The new deal between the national-religious party—which ran a brazen, anti-Haredi campaign that was so border-line anti-Semitic, Chairman Bennett had to intervene and suspend it—and the secular candidate completely shakes up the political map. All Berkovitch has to bring to the wedding is a deputy-mayor’s appointment for his new allies, as well as the municipal portfolio dealing with eastern Jerusalem.
The split within the Haredi factions in last Tuesday’s vote also makes it possible for several Haredi city council-members elect to endorse Berkovitch next round – most poignantly the faction loyal to Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, whose municipal candidates were abandoned by his partners in the United Torah Judaism Knesset coalition.
Moshe Leon, who reportedly invested around $2 million in his campaign, received most of his votes from the Haredim, as part of a vote bundling deal. Should he lose, this would be his and his patrons’ second defeat in a row.