Jerusalem Election:
Berkovitch plans alliance with haredi faction

Hitorerut Jerusalem candidate who vowed to end 'haredi extortion' of city hall plans alliance with haredi candidate to win run-off election.

David Rosenberg,

Ofer Berkovitch
Ofer Berkovitch
Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90

With Jerusalem’s hotly contested mayoral election heading to a run-off vote next month, Jerusalem city councilman and Hitorerut chairman Ofer Berkovitch is charting a course to victory that may surprise some supporters.

In Tuesday’s local election, Berkovitch, 35, came in second in the five-way race, picking up 28.8% of the vote to Moshe Lion’s 33.4%. The two will face each other in a run-off vote in November.

Likud MK and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin received 20% of the vote, while the haredi candidate, Agudat Yisrael’s Yossi Deitch won 17%. Avi Salman received just 0.8% of the vote.

While the vote-breakdown appears to suggest that Lion – a member of the city’s National Religious community and a Likud party member who lost to Nir Barkat in the 2013 mayoral election – has a clearer path to victory in November, Berkovitch is hoping that internal divisions among the city’s haredi factions will help him to top 50%.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Berkovitch campaigned in part on limiting haredi influence, telling The Times of Israel he was the only candidate who would not cave in to “haredi extortion”.

“The other candidates are liable to capitulate to the Haredi extortion, and may not understand the strategic steps the city needs to take in order to flourish and get on the right track. They weren’t partners in the successes of recent years.”

But following the release of the preliminary election results Tuesday night, Berkovitch struck a conciliatory note, sending what he called a “message of unity between different sectors”.

Berkovitch suggested he was open to “cooperation with the haredi sector,” he said in interview with Arutz Sheva.

On Wednesday, Berkovitch said in an interview with Army Radio that he hoped to win over Yossi Deitch’s voters.

Deitch, 50, a member of the Slonim Hassidic movement, represented he predominantly Hassidic Agudat Yisrael faction.

Led by the Gur Hassidic movement, Agudat Yisrael split with the non-Hassidic haredi faction Degel Hatorah, which represents the Lithuanian haredi sector. While religious authorities associated with Degel backed Lion, Gur pushed for Deitch to remain in the race.

Now, Berkovitch hopes to use the split within the haredi sector to defeat Lion.

“I’ll try to convince voters who didn’t back me to vote for me now,” Berkovitch told Army Radio. “I’ll even speak with leaders of the Gur Hassidic movement.”

While Berkovitch suggested he would engage Gur in negotiations to win their backing, he vowed not to compromise on haredi demands to restrict businesses operating at night in the Mahane Yehuda marketplace in the center of town. In recent years, Mahane Yehuda, located near a number of has become a night-life hotspot.

“The Mahane Yehuda marketplace will not be a part of negotiations with the haredim. The market will remain open.”



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