In the current public discourse on elections in Jerusalem, as in all previous elections since the time of mayor Teddy Kollek, there seems to be only one important question: will the ultra-orthodox church be able to capture the mayor? There are usually two main camps that participate in the debate: the ultra-orthodox and the secular. But a closer look reveals that the forces at work are much more complex and that religious Zionist Jerusalemites are the key to victory. This situation places the candidates at a considerable difficulty: religious Zionists form a diverse group, from the far right, Kahanist wing to liberal orthodox people, many of whom participated in the Gay Pride parade two weeks ago.
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In the previous two election campaigns, the secular mayor, Nir Barkat, was able to maintain his alliance with the religious Zionists, and that assured his victory. Now, secular Jerusalemites, and a large number of religious ones, fear that a victory by an ultra-orthodox candidate will speed up the process of increased ultra-orthodox presence in secular neighborhoods and compromise on observance of the Sabbath in public places in Jerusalem. For their part, the ultra-orthodox sees the election as a golden opportunity to take control of Jerusalem after ten years under Barkat – especially as an opportunity to solve their severe shortage of housing and classrooms. But ultra-orthodox public figures also fear the defeat and openly talk about their preference for a mayor who was dependent on their vote instead of an ultra-orthodox mayor who would be constantly attacked and who should take steps such as financing the Gay Pride Parade or licensing to companies that work on the Sabbath.
From today on, the opinion polls predict a possible victory for three of the eight candidates. But none of the three can be complacent: the road to the post-Barkat Mayoralty is still a very winding one.
>> The several wannabe mayors of Jerusalem could split the secular voice Analysis
According to a survey published last week by the Midgam Research Institute, the three realistic candidates are the ultra-orthodox loco-mayor Yossi Deutsch, the orthodox, right-wing minister of Jerusalem, Zeev Elkin and the young, secular president of the grassroots. Jerusalem secular civil society organization Wake-Up Jerusalem, former deputy mayor Ofer Berkovitch. Each would receive between 21 percent and 23 percent of the votes. Behind them remain Moshe Lion with 11 percent, former councilor Rachel Azaria with 6 percent, and former municipal legal adviser Yossi Havilio, with 4 percent.
The complexity of the power games and the questions on the agenda leave plenty of room for the candidates and their people to propose different scenarios.
The Deutsch scenario is so simple. All he has to do in the first round is winning the broad support of all ultra-orthodox voters, voters of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas and the Jerusalem branch of the ultra-orthodox non-Hasidic or Lithuanian voice, and making sure that the ultra-Orthodoxe steps out and tunes in large numbers. He does not have that yet. The only political body that has hitherto been fulfilled in support of him is the Hassidic Agudat Yisrael. Shas has not expressed his preference and the Lithuanian people in Jerusalem, rebelling against the regular Lithuanian group, lead their own candidate, Moshe Epstein. Moshe Lion, who in the past has received almost ultra-orthodox support from the walls, also cuts in that support from the electorate, and Interior Minister Arye Dery, a close associate of Lion's, still seeks ultra-orthodox support to obtain for his candidate.
But even complete ultra-orthodox unity does not promise victory to Deutsch. The upcoming elections will be the first in Jerusalem on a day when people can take their day off from work. This means that secular and religious voters who have a paid job can close the difference in voting percentages (10 percent more ultra-orthodox voters went to the polls in the previous elections) and blocked the election of the ultra-orthodox candidate.
The electorate of Elkin is a mixture of secular, religious Zionist and ultra-orthodox Jerusalemites. In recent weeks, it seems that Elkin has emerged as a leading candidate. He has promised the support of mayor Barkat (to the disappointment of Lion, who said that Barkat had promised him), to late, but still important support from the prime minister and from Friday support from Knesset coalition chairman MK David Amsalem, who was considering himself to run. So even if the local Likud branch does not support him, Elkin can still get the support of Likud voters in the capital, and there are many.
Elkin has also received the support of prominent religious Zionists, including Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, chairman of the liberal liberal orthodox group Tzohar; religious Zionists in general and ultra-orthodox Zionist rabbis Dov Lior and Shlomo Aviner. They do not necessarily wait for their rabbinic philosophers to tell them who to vote for.
And in a second round?
According to a Channel 2 opinion poll, Elkin, if Elkin and Deutsch were to fight Berkovitch in the second round, would win pretty handy. His problem is that to reach the second round, he must beat Berkovitch and weaken Lion, to get out as the only right-wing orthodox candidate. And Lion shows no signs of leaving that area.
As the race progresses, Elkin is expected to use the strategic logic of the non-ultra-orthodox camp in the city and explains that even if he is not the dream candidate of the liberal left, he would be better off for them than an ultra-orthodox mayor. According to the close associates of Elkin, the research shows that he is the only non-ultra-orthodox candidate to win, because if there is a second round, both Berkovitch and Lion will certainly lose from Deutsch.
According to the survey, Berkovitch would have defeated Deutsch in a second round, but the gap would be small. Assuming that the number of votes decreases in the second round (there is no free day off work), the ultra-orthodox probability of closing that number is high.
The people of Berkovitch obviously reject this scenario. Berkovitch, the youngest candidate and the only secular candidate among the realistic runners, was considered the underdog early in the race, but the survey predicted him first, within the limits of statistical errors.
But this scenario still places him far from the mayor's chair. The assumption is that the other two candidates for the secular and pluralist voice in the city, Rachel Azaria and Yossi Havilio, will finally realize that they are hurting their electorate and dropping out. In the next phase, Berkovitch hopes to speed up his candidacy and get more support from the religious Zionists and undecided voters. Those two groups, he hopes, will give him the 40 percent he needs in the first round. The problem is that Havilio and Azaria show no signs of withdrawal, and even if they do, chances are that Berkovitch will beat Elkin and Deutsch thin. If Berkovitch wins the second round, he may hope that he will take up against Deutsch, and that the secular and mainstream religious voters in Jerusalem will stay behind him and in large numbers go back to the polls – which is not easy.
People around Azaria say that Berkovitch has gone as far as he can, and only Azaria, an orthodox woman who knows Jerusalem well, can extend the boundaries of the pluralistic camp and introduce voices from religious people and even some modern orthodox voters. Havilio has proposed to Azaria and Berkovitch to conduct a joint opinion poll a month before the elections to determine which of the three should stop to increase the chances of a pluralistic candidate. They have not responded to the idea yet.
Lion, who knew how to beat Barkat's chair during the previous elections, undoubtedly has changed his mind today. His only chance to come back in the race is if Deutsch fails and he, Lion, becomes the ultra-orthodox candidate. This week, Lion & # 39; s people said the survey was "fake" and unreliable.
Of course there is another electoral block in Jerusalem that is completely invisible – the Palestinians. They make up 40 percent of the population of Jerusalem, which means that they have the power to drastically change the balance of power in the city hall. Nevertheless, although new voices have recently been heard, it seems that the political and social taboo against their voices will not break. The Palestinian candidate, Ramadan Dabash, a community leader of Sur Baher, has now gone further than any other Palestinian candidate in history. Despite threats and pressure, he refuses to withdraw, but as expected, he has faced serious opposition from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
At the next office of the mayor
The next mayor of Jerusalem will apparently cut the ribbon at some of the largest projects in the country. But before that happens, the victor will face strong opposition from residents, green organizations and at least some of the international community.
The projects that are expected to significantly influence Jerusalem are the fast train to Tel Aviv, whose completion is nowhere to be seen and whose influence can not be predicted. A lot of work has already been done across the city for more light railways – one of which has already led to sharp opposition from residents who fear the future of the German colony. Plans to expand the capital to the green hills in the west have caused great protests and criticism among many of the mayoral candidates. Then there is the plan to build a new access road to the capital, road 16, which is very worried about residents of the Givat Mordechai district in the west of Jerusalam.
Meanwhile, an overarching agreement was signed last week between the city of Jerusalem and the Israel Lands Authority for the development of the capital in the coming decades. The agreement requires the construction of 20,000 housing units, of which 8,000 are covered by the protection of urban renewal as part of Masterplan 38 (refurbishing apartments while becoming earthquake-proof). It was also agreed to make a total of three million square meters of land available for employment, trade and hotels.
The new projects are expected to be built at the entrance of the city, on a covered part of Begin Boulevard, in the industrial zone Har Hotzvim, Pisgat Zeev and other locations. Barkat said about the agreement that it marked "a historic day in the construction of Jerusalem and for its future". Unprecedented in his scope and together with the Israel Lands Authority he declared that it would benefit Jerusalem and Israel in general.