With only six months to go before Jerusalem picks a new mayor, it is the candidates who have not yet declared their candidacy that are making the headlines. The Haredi camp may run Yossi Deutsch whose popularity crosses into the Jerusalem’s secular population. Meanwhile, national politicians, some of whom do not live in the city, are looking at Jerusalem’s vacant mayoral seat to the presumed dismay of the already packed field.
Deutsch is the most important potential player in the upcoming election. He has a fairly positive relationship with the non-Haredi community, which is important for ensuring that the community does not significantly increase its voter turnout for the election. In the past, he has spearheaded programming to help the Haredi population find employment.
In an interview with Kol Hair, Deutsch confirmed that he was interested in running. The only obstacle is whether Haredi leadership decides that it is wise to run a candidate of their own. They fear making decisions based on religion-related issues such as the Gay Pride Parade and igniting sectoral tensions.
However, according to Deutsch, he is no rush to begin actively campaigning because Haredi electoral coordination will deliver 100,000 automatic votes. He is expected to make a decision only three months before the October 30th election.
Despite Deutsch’s confidence in the power of the Haredi street, 2018 has seen a growing division between Haredi groups and a power vacuum following the deaths of major rabbinical figures such as Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach who lead the protests that disrupted Jerusalem in the last year. Furthermore (as pointed out by Marik Shtern), in the 2013 elections, Haredi turnout was higher, but not significantly so, than non-Haredi turnout. The trend in Jerusalem has been a closing of the gap in turnout between the two voting sectors in the city.
Beyond Deutsch, a number of major Likud members are considering running in addition to Meir Turjeman who has already declared. In fact, so many Likud members are considering running that some local Likudniks are demanding that the local branch hold primaries. The most important names considering running are Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin and Coalition Chairman Dudu Amsalem. If one of them decides to run, they are likely to receive the support of current Mayor Nir Barkat.
Amsalem recently moved to Jerusalem in preparation for his run. However, he would not confirm that he was thinking about running. According to reports, he is waiting for his friend Deutsch to make a decision and would not run against the Haredi candidate.
As Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Elkin can claim familiarity with the city that he would be attempting to run. He could also be buoyed by a strong relationship with Jerusalem’s Haredi population, though the combination of Likud and Haredi support failed to work for Moshe Lion during the 2013 campaign. According to the Minister, he has had a number of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu on how to proceed and is expected to announce in the coming weeks. If he does decide to run it will be unlikely that Amsallem would continue his campaign.
Beyond the above-mentioned heavyweights, three members of the Labor party Erel Margalit, Dr. Yom-Tov Samiah and Nachman Shai are all considering runs. Margalit and Samiah both lost their race to become the head of the Zionist Camp to Avi Gabai. Another big name familiar to Jerusalemites who is considering running is Rachel Azaria. Azaria was one of the founders of the local Yerushalmim party. The party has struggled to maintain momentum after Azaria left the municipality for the Knesset in 2015.
(Header Photo by Yoninah)