Mayor: 'Bibi, Bennett, Lapid Stop Meddling in Beit Shemesh'
Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul, who was re-elected for a second term of office on Tuesday, has fired criticism at Israel's prime minister, finance minister and economy minister for "meddling" in the city's election process.
Abutbul, a hareidi Jew, defeated Eli Cohen, who was supported by a broad-based Zionist bloc, with Abutbul gaining 51% of votes to Cohen's 43%.
The elections in Beit Shemesh, just 40 minutes from Jerusalem, were seen as landmark, with many non-hareidi residents fearing that the re-election of a 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.
Tensions have bubbled over with extremist hareidi violence plaguing some parts of the city, and a dispute over the display of Israeli flags on a major thoroughfare marring the latest Independence Day celebration.
The disputes drew involvement from Israel's leading Zionist politicians and saw the Likud, Labor, Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi parties unite behind a sole Zionist candidate in the failed attempt to topple Abutbul.
Ahead of the elections, Bayit Yehudi Head Naftali Bennett met with Cohen saying, "This is the last chance for Beit Shemesh to be or not to be," adding "there is no other fight as significant as the fight for Beit Shemesh in the coming municipal elections."
In his victory speech, Tuesday night, the mayor fired criticism at the support given to his opponent by the leading Zionist politicians, calling on "Bibi, Lapid and Bennett" to "stop meddling in the affairs of the city." As he made mention of the politicians, boos were heard from the hareidi-religious part of the crowd.
He continued by announcing his intentions to build a "wall to wall" coalition to govern the city that he said would "unite all of its parties." Abutbul also said the election had not only lasted for a few months as in most cities, but for five years, saying that he had been fighting national and local media campaigns against him.
Abutbul had also been criticized for not doing enough to put an end to the disharmony in the city.
"The residents are mature enough to discern what is truly important," he said suggesting that the media "needed to do some soul searching."
"Beit Shemesh is starting out on a new path", Abutbul declared, "Today everyone sees that all of the attacks by the media did not penetrate the city.
"The residents who know me," he said "know that I am only interested in peace, and that I act from a place of love and unity." Therefore, he called on the media to place all of the unruly incitement to the side, and said Beit Shemesh had voted "with love."
"Let's open a fresh page" he said, calling on media to report on some of the good things happening in the city.