Beit Shemesh Vote: Last Word has Not Been Said
Hundreds of Beit Shemesh residents are demonstrating this evening at what they say is the "hareidi control of the city" demanding to check the validity of the elections in the city following numerous claims of fraudulent voting.
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 having special significance, 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.
The residents' claims are based on a police raid the day of the elections on two apartments in the city in which the ID cards of 200 residents who were abroad were found with police suspecting they were about to be used to vote in the city's elections.
Ahead of the demonstration Thursday evening a city resident named Meir told Arutz Sheva, "As a secular person who lives in Beit Shemesh, I can testify that we don't have a place here. Large sections have become closed to us, and the city council gives the feeling that secular and religious Zionist Jews are not wanted."
City Mayor Abutbul addressed the voices against him earlier Thursday who were also calling to divide the city between Zionists and hareidi-religious Jews. "I understand them," he said, "it's not easy to lose, but it's important to remember that Beit Shemesh is one city," where he said "everyone benefits from everyone else".
He cited as an example a new neighborhood in the hareidi Ramat Beit Shemesh part of the city, which would bring with it tens of millions of shekels in revenues that would be invested in renovating the older part of the city.
"It's important to know," the mayor added, "that while the matter of separating the city between the old part and the new part has been raised in the past in the Interior Ministry, the idea was scrapped because of the trend toward uniting local authorities as opposed to splitting them."
"Therefore," he continued, "I recommend to everyone entertaining the idea to internalize the election results even if they are not exactly as they would like."