Likud minister's husband resigns from anti-haredi party

Chovev Damari, husband of the Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel claims that Kobi refused to remove his name from the list.

Sara Rubenstein ,

Ron Kobi at the Central Elections Committee
Ron Kobi at the Central Elections Committee
Credit: Arutz Sheva

When Tiberias mayor Ron Kobi arrived at the Central Elections Committee on Thursday evening to register his new party, The Secular Right, the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Justice Chanan Meltzer, informed him that the fourth candidate on his list had withdrawn his candidacy.

The candidate in question is Attorney Chovev Damari, the husband of Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud). Damari, who is originally from Tiberias, said that Meltzer's statement was not a surprise to Kobi, claiming that he had told Kobi to remove his name from the list but he refused, and he was forced to turn directly to the Central Elections Committee.

"Prior to the submission of the list of candidates by The Secular Right, I informed Mr. Kobi on my lack of agreement to be included in the list, despite the written agreement he has," Damari wrote to Meltzer. "In light of the fact that Mr. Kobi refused my request not to submit my candidacy, I informed the chairman of the Central Election Commission that my candidacy for the Knesset should not be accepted."

Kobi told Ynet regarding Damari's decision, "I am very surprised that a person who wants to be on the list and signs an agreement, is so afraid a few seconds before I go before the judge. Apparently, he or his wife was pressured and the Likud is afraid of The Secular Right."

Kobi officially registered his list of 15 candidates as "Ron Kobi - The Secular Right fights haredi coercion." According to Ynet, most of the members of Kobi's list are residents of Tiberias and one of them has even been convicted of criminal acts.

Following the official registration of his list, Kobi told reporters, "We are seeing our exposure in the media and social media and we are confident that we will be able to remove Aryeh Deri from the Interior Ministry. The time has come for a secular agenda here. We are not against religious people or religion. We are against haredi and religious coercion from the Knesset. I think it's time for the people of Israel - the secular, the traditional and the religious - to understand that 'live and let live' is the best way. Its ways are the ways of pleasantness and all its path are peace [a quote of a verse from Proverbs, which refers to the Torah]."

Meanwhile, Kobi's position as mayor of Tiberias is still in question. After failing to pass a budget for the city multiple times since he was elected, the Interior Ministry made a decision to hold a hearing to remove him from his position. However, Kobi appealed to the Supreme Court, which issued an interim injunction against holding a hearing until a later date.

On Thursday, in light of the Supreme Court's ruling, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and the Ministry's Director-General Mordechai Cohen held a meeting on Thursday together with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and attended by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, and the Director of the Supreme Court. A decision was made during the meeting to extend the date for approval of the Tiberias municipal budget until September 30. This is the maximum approval period prescribed by the law.

The decision applies to three other municipalities that did not succeed in passing a budget as well, Rahat, Isfiya, and Yarka.

Rahat, located in the south, is the largest Bedouin city in the world with a population of 66,791 residents, and the only one in Israel to have city status.

Isfiya is a Druze-majority town in northern Israel located on Mount Carmel and part of the Haifa District, with a population of 12,136. Yarka is a Druze village also located in the north with a population of 16,747.