Moshe Abutbul, the newly reelected Mayor of Beit Shemesh, reacted Friday to a protest calling to check the validity of the elections.
He told IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal) that he respects the protesters. “I see it as a way for those who didn’t win to let off steam, and I accept that,” he said.
He strongly denied charges that his supporters “stole” the elections using fake ID cards. “The police are investigating… I’ve already strongly condemned [elections fraud] – it’s illegal and its prohibited under Torah law, too,” he said.
However, he said, “Even if all of the [fake] ID cards had been used, the elections results would stay as they are.”
Abutbul won by 956 votes. Police found 250 fake ID cards in a Beit Shemesh apartment on the day of the elections; they had apparently been prepared by supporters of Abutbul who planned to vote more than once.
He had strong words for those who called this week to split the city of Beit Shemesh into two separate municipalities, one of which would run the primarily non-hareidi “old” city of Beit Shemesh, while the other would run the majority-hareidi neighborhoods of Ramat Beit Shemesh.
“It’s absurd to think of such a thing,” he said. “It’s like a child who lost a game of marbles, and now wants to change the rules of the game.”
The proposal is not feasible, and in any case would hurt precisely the “old” Beit Shemesh areas that supporters hope it would help, he argued. “The development of ‘old’ Beit Shemesh is funded by new Beit Shemesh. For each apartment built in new Beit Shemesh, I get tens of thousands of shekels to develop historic Beit Shemesh,” he explained.
“There are thousands of hareidi families in old Beit Shemesh, and thousands of non-hareidi families in new Beit Shemesh. I can’t draw a line separating between each building,” he added.