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‘Last Chance for Beit Shemesh’

Naftali Bennett warns that Beit Shemesh city elections could be the city's 'last chance.'
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/11/2013, 11:48 AM

Women walk by signs praising modesty in Beit Shemesh
Women walk by signs praising modesty in Beit Shemesh
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The upcoming city elections in Beit Shemesh “are Beit Shemesh’s last chance,” warned Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennett of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party.

“No other [elections] battle is as significant as the fight for Beit Shemesh in the upcoming municipal elections,” he declared.

The city of Beit Shemesh, just 40 minutes from Jerusalem, is facing major decisions regarding its future. Hareidi-religious politicians have largely pushed for new housing for young hareidi families, while other residents of city want to see new housing for other groups, as well, along with more entertainment venues and other attractions, and an end to the extremist hareidi violence that has plagued some parts of the city.

Many non-hareidi residents fear that another hareidi mayor would stifle development for the city's non-hareidi neighborhoods, ultimately leading Beit Shemesh to become a majority-hareidi city similar to Bnei Brak or Kiryat Sefer, rather than a religiously mixed city.

Bennett recently met with Eli Cohen, who is the lead candidate for the “Zionist bloc” of Bayit Yehudi, Likud, Labor and Yesh Atid.

The four parties agreed last week to jointly support Cohen, a move which effectively ended party support for candidate Aliza Bloch, who had been the Bayit Yehudi party’s top choice. Bloch has not yet said whether she will run together with Cohen as a candidate for deputy mayor.

Bennett explained that he admires Bloch and hopes she will stay in the race, but that for strategic reasons all support must go to a single candidate.

“We can’t have anyone who isn’t hareidi voting for anyone who isn’t Eli Cohen. To me, that’s a top strategic goal,” he stated.

“In the upcoming days, we’ll invest all our energy in reaching every single resident,” he continued. He issued a call to Beit Shemesh residents, “We need 100 percent of you to get out and vote. Every Beit Shemesh resident must hang an Eli Cohen sign, everyone who can should make phone calls.”

Cohen thanked Bennett for his support during their recent meetings.

“I really appreciate it. You’ve put Beit Shemesh first,” he said. Cohen expressed hope that Bloch would join him.

In the last Beit Shemesh city elections the non-hareidi vote was split, and the elections were won by Shas candidate Moshe Abutbul, the current mayor.

In a recent column for Arutz Sheva, city resident Shlomo Walfish explained why he is supporting Eli Cohen.