Jerusalem to get a haredi mayor?

Haredi decision making body clears Yossi Deitch to run for mayor of Jerusalem. Observers say crowded race makes him the clear favorite.

Tzvi Lev ,

Jerusalem, Israel
Jerusalem, Israel

The haredi Agudath Yisrael political party is expected to clear Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yossi Deitch to run for mayor of Jerusalem in the upcoming elections in October, shaking up an already crowded race, Kikar Hashabbat reported.

A source within the haredi political establishment told Kikar Hashabbat that Deitch's candidacy is all but certain and that Agudath Yisrael is negotiating with the other haredi factions in order to secure their support for Deitch. Jerusalem has not had a haredi mayor since Uri Lupolianski left office in 2008.

"It is clear to the party center that in order for Deitsch's candidacy to be serious, it is necessary to conduct negotiations with the various haredi parties," said the source.

Many observers peg Deitch is the clear favorite to take city hall, as the abundance of candidates will split the secular-Religious Zionist vote and enable Deitch to take in the substantial haredi vote. Haredim make up 40% of Jerusalem, making it almost impossible to win city-wide elections without their support.

The Jerusalem Mayoral race is seen as wide open ever since current city head Nir Barkat recently announced he would not seek re-election in October, and that he would instead submit his candidacy for the Likud list for the Knesset elections in 2019.

Enviromental Protection Minister Ze'ev Elkin has been fighting fellow Likud member Moshe Lion for the haredi vote. City councilman Ofer Berkovitch, who heads the Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim party (‘Wake Up Jerusalem’) has also announced his candidacy.

In addition to Elkin, two other MKs have also announced plans to run for mayor – coalition MK Rachel Azariya (Kulanu), and opposition MK Nahman Shai (Zionist Union).