TUNIS – Jerusalem is preparing for a short leak of mayoralties between lay and religious candidates that have turned into a turbulent battle over power and influence in the holy city.
Israeli businessman Moshe Lion has backed critical approval from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the Jewish Orthodox party to strengthen his chances of becoming the future mayor of the city.
"I believe that the election of Moshe Lion in the second round means choosing the good of Jerusalem, and that's why I decided to support him," said Larkud, a member of the Likud party, who finished in front of the Lion during the Mayoralty in 2013. "With His Lady, Jerusalem will succeed. "
The lion, an Orthodox Jew who is popular with religious Zionists, has already had the support of most of the influential ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem and the right-wing defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman. He must face Candidate Laurent Ofer Berkovitch in the run-off November 13, after no candidate received at least 40% of the votes in the first round to win straight.
The Leo, being considered a "unifying", promised to revive the economy of Jerusalem, to reach the Palestinians, and to encourage young people to live in the city.
Berkovitch camped on a platform centered on economic development, infrastructure and education. He emphasized the importance of "tolerance" and "coexistence".
"I am the only candidate who is dedicated to the interests of Jerusalem and not to Lieberman [ultra-Orthodox leader Aryeh] Deri or the center of Likud, "Berkovitch said at a recent rally.
The race for the mayor of Jerusalem, a key position in Israeli policy, drew attention to the fierce divisions of the country's secular camp and political obstacles for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose candidate, Jerusalem's Minister of Business, Zein Elkin , the voting round.
Elkin, a firm and confidential supporter close to Netanyahu, finished the third with 20% of the vote, indicating that Netanyahu's influence could fall, analysts said.
"He (Netanyahu) has endorsed Lukud's Zeitgeist Elkin late in the race and half-hearted but Elkin has not even managed to reach the second round," wrote Israeli author Akiva Eldar in Al- Monitor. "Elkin's crushing defeat – the minister of business in Jerusalem and Netanyahu's former associate – as well as the Likud faction in the municipal council – which has won only one place – shows that Netanyahu's support is not necessarily enough."
Elder adds: "Netanyahu could lose his magical touch. There is no city with which Netanyahu's political and personal identity is more closely linked than his hometown Jerusalem, the capital of Israel."
Netanyahu has been involved in a corruption scandal involving members of his inner circle, including his wife and cousin. He has repeatedly questioned corruption allegations, and analysts caution that an indictment may arise.
After defeating Elkin's shocks, Likud's local branch favored Lion, quoting his strong nationalist views. Elkin abstained from the approval of each pilot candidate.
Berkovitch hit "backdoor deals" said Lion had engaged with ultra-orthodox leaders and Barkat to exercise his power.
"All [Lion’s] voters are a great political affair and have no public legitimacy to lead Jerusalem, "Berkovitch said." We will win … We will win from below. We'll defuse wheel dealers. We will win because Jerusalem understands what their politicians do not understand yet. "
Despite giving up key approvals, Berkovitch has a stronger power in Jerusalem than Lion, whose party Jennifer failed to raise one seat in the municipal council.
If he is elected mayor, Lion would need dispensation from the country's Interior Ministry to oversee the council.
Palestinian residents, frustrated with the rise of Israeli settlements and poor infrastructure, boycott the mayor's race, which, in their opinion, legitimizes a system in which they are marginalized and served.
"I am not willing to admit the political rules of the game and recognize or legitimize the Israeli occupation," Rami Nasrallah, director general of the International Center for Peace and Co-operation in East Jerusalem, told ynetnews.
Aziz Abu Sarah, the only Palestinian candidate to visit this position, gave up the mayor's race one month before the first round of elections after his status as a resident was questioned.
"It seems that the political interest groups on both sides hope to maintain the status quo and stop at nothing to hinder progress ahead," he wrote on Twitter.