Berkovitch says Leon's support 'a result of backroom deals'

Ahead of runoff in Jerusalem mayoral race, Ofer Berkovitch accuses Moshe Leon of cooking up backroom deals, predicts victory.

Tzvi Lev,

Ofer Berkovitch predicts victory
Ofer Berkovitch predicts victory
Eliran Aharon

Disparaging rival Moshe Leon on Wednesday as one "with no public legitimacy", Jerusalem mayoral candidate Ofer Berkovitch predicted victory in next week's runoff for the city's top job.

Moshe Leon will face off with Ofer Berkovitch in a November 13 runoff after neither one mustered the 40% support in October's elections that is required to win outright.

"We're going to win on Tuesday. We're going to win from below, we're going to defeat the wheeler-dealers, we're going to win because the Jerusalemites understand what their politicians may not yet understand," said Berkovitch at a press conference.

Referring to the numerous agreements Leon reportedly signed with Jerusalem's haredi leaders in order to earn their endorsements, Berkovitch said that he enjoys the support of Jerusalem's rank and file. "All [Leon's] voters are one big political deal, and he has no public legitimacy to lead Jerusalem," contended Berkovitch .

Leon had earned the endorsement of both the Shas and Degel Hatorah haredi parties. As haredim make up 40% of Jerusalem, it is considerably difficult to win city-wide elections without their support.

Leon, a close confidant to both Liberman and Shas leader Aryeh Deri, has been dogged by allegations that the defense minister offered to drop his opposition to a law enabling yeshiva students to avoid the IDF draft in exchange for supporting Leon.

Berkovitch also blasted Jerusalem's Jewish Home faction leader Hagit Moshe for supporting Leon. "Hagit Moshe made political and not moral considerations and put aside this partnership, this alliance of religious Zionism with general Zionism," he said.

"If I am elected, not only will I not hold grudges against religious Zionism, I see them as allies in maintaining the Zionist character of Jerusalem," said Berkovitch, warning that "Religious Zionism is liable to lose the city of Jerusalem, and such a thing will be remembered for eternity.

Despite reports that the Jewish Home would endorse Berkovitch, Moshe announced earlier this week that the Religious-Zionist party would be supporting Leon instead. Leon was also endorsed on Tuesday by outgoing Mayor Nir Barkat.

"From my close acquaintance with the two candidates and my work with the pair, I have no doubt that Moshe Lion is the best pick for Jerusalem," said Barkat.



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