Defeated Beit Shemesh mayor concedes mayoral race

Following shock defeat to National-Religious candidate Aliza Bloch, Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul thanks supporters, may leave politics.

Tzvi Lev ,

Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul
Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul
Flash 90

Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul officially conceded the city's hard-fought mayoral race, shortly after his shock loss to Aliza Bloch.

The Religious Zionist Bloch had beaten the Shas-affiliated Abutbul by the tiny margin of 500 votes.

In a letter to supporters, Abutbul said that he had called and greeted her warmly and with great success in her job. The tasks are numerous and the challenge is enormous. We determined that in the next few days we will conduct an orderly overlap to move the staff to its successful path."

Abutbul added that he recommended that Bloch form a coalition together with the municipality's haredi elements. "It will add to the unity and good deeds of the city," he said.

"Personally, after many years, I am considering resigning from political life in the near future, and with God's help, I will advance things that I have always loved in the field of education and society in which I have dealt in the past."

Abutbul, 53, has served as the mayor of Beit Shemesh since 2008. His re-election 2013 were marred by widespread allegations of electoral fraud amid a contentious campaign that was seen as a battle over the city's increasingly haredi image.

On election day itself, police arrested several haredi men in possession of an estimated 200 fake ID cards, which they had apparently been using to cast fraudulent votes. In addition, several residents said after the elections that when they had come to vote, they had been wrongly told that they had already voted.

The revelations triggered an outcry among local residents - in particular, supporters of Abutbul's rival, Eli Cohen, who lost out to the haredi incumbent by a mere 956 votes - who called for an immediate rerun of the election, accusing Abutbul and his supporters of conducting a large-scale voting scam.

In what observers call the biggest upset of Israel's municipal elections Bloch won the mayoral elections in the city on Wednesday by 500 votes over incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul.

By doing so, she will become the first woman to head the city of Bet Shemesh. Bloch, married and mother of four, is an educator by trade and has won many awards in this field.

“The people of Israel look at the city of Beit Shemesh and wake up to a new hope. Beit Shemesh decided to cancel the walls and partitions," said Bloch following her victory. “Today we have proven to ourselves and to Israeli society that we respect each other and do not create gaps."