A woman was elected mayor of Haifa for the first time, while the mayor’s race in Jerusalem will go to a runoff following municipal elections held across Israel on Tuesday.
In Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai will serve a fifth term as mayor after defeating his deputy.
In Jerusalem, voters will return to the polls in two week to choose between Municipal Council member Moshe Leon and former deputy mayor Ofer Berkovitch, who each received about 30 percent of the vote, failing to reach the 40 percent threshold to avoid a runoff.
Leon, a businessman, was backed by both Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beiteinu party and the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party, as well as other haredi factions.
Zeev Elkin, the Jerusalem affairs minister and Likud party Knesset member, was regarded as the front-runner and was backed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but finished with 20 percent of the vote.
Some 60 percent of eligible Israeli voters, or about 4 million people, voted on Tuesday, up 10 percent from 2013. This year, municipal election day was a national holiday for the first time, as it is for national elections.
In Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai defeated Asaf Zamir with 46 percent of the vote. Zamir garnered 34 percent of the vote. He had been running in third place in the race until Stav Shaffir, who served in Knesset for the Zionist Union, dropped out of the race.
In Haifa, Einat Kalisch-Rotem defeated incumbent mayor Yona Yahav to become the first woman mayor of one of Israel’s three largest cities. Kalisch-Rotem, who garnered 55 percent of the vote, was backed by Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay but not the local Labor party, and was supported by the left-wing Meretz Party and the haredi community in Haifa.
Ten women were elected to head communities in Israel, over seven women elected in 2013.
In the largely haredi city of Beit Shemesh, located about 20 miles west of Jerusalem, the race between incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul of the Shas Party and Aliza Bloch, a member of the religious Zionist community was too close to tell as of Wednesday noon. With 99 percent of the votes counted, some 250 votes separated the two candidates. The municipality was preparing on Wednesday to count ballots cast by soldiers on their bases.