Tel Aviv mayor Roni Milo dropped a political bombshell this morning when he announced he would run for prime minister against Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Milo also announced his resignation from the post of Tel Aviv mayor, to take effect on November 10.
Milo gave as the reason for his decision the religious censorship, as he called it, of the Bat-Sheva dance troupe’s performance in the "Jubilee Chimes" show on Independence Day. He said the censorship of the performance made something in him snap, and he intended to run for prime minister at the head of a center party that would try to bridge the gaps in Israeli society.
He stressed that the platform of his center party was that there should be no coercion, and everyone should be able to live in the State of Israel of the 21st century according to his beliefs, as happens now, in his opinion, in Tel Aviv, where religious and non-religious people, and members of different peoples, live together, maintaining every citizen’s freedom of choice.
Milo said he decided to announce his decision today to enable potential candidates for mayor who feared to run against him to change their addresses by Sunday, the last date on which it is possible to change address and run for mayor of Tel Aviv.
He refused to answer questions about possible cooperation with Dan Meridor and Ehud Olmert, but announced his intention to approach well known business people and public figures and bring them into his new party. Meridor and Olmert refused to comment on Milo’s announcement.
The announcement caused an earthquake in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in London, at first refused to comment on Milo’s announcement, and his aides said he would give his response this evening. Several members of Netanyahu’s entourage responded with smiles, and even guffaws of laughter, and gave as their assessments that Milo would split the left vote and strengthen Netanyahu. They said Milo had committed a severe political error.
MK Yossi Sarid expressed concern at Milo’s step, and warned that it was liable to lead to a split in the moderate secular camp and leave Netanyahu and the ultra-orthodox in power.
On the other hand, MK Amnon Rubinstein expressed satisfaction at the announcement by Milo, who, in his view, has become disgusted by the Likud and its alliance with the ultra-orthodox.
Published by Israel's Business Arena on May 4, 1998