In the tightest of races for Jerusalem Mayor, right-wing candidate Moshe Lion beat his independent secular rival Ofer Berkovitch in a nail-biting dramatic finish in the second-round runoff by 51.46% to 48.54%. Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri (Shas) phoned to congratulate Lion and MK Moshe Gafni (Degel Hatorah) danced and sang with the victor.
Lion, an accountant and former director-general of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, will become the first-ever mayor of Jerusalem of Sephardi descent. In 2013, Lion ran in the Jerusalem mayoral race as the Likud candidate against Nir Barkat, winning 45% of the vote. This time he ran as an independent after the Likud chose Minister for Environmental Protection Zeev Elkin, who was eliminated in the first round of voting.
This election exposed the deep rift in the Jerusalem ultra-orthodox community with the Hasidic (Agudat Yisrael) wing failing to endorse Lion, while the Lithuanian-Haredim (Degel Hatorah) backed Lion.
Lion's party did not win a single council seat, thus making the work of forming a council coalition very difficult.
Berkovitch, who led for most the vote counting, said, "The result was not good but does give the foundations of hope for a new Israel."
Elsewhere in the country incumbent Ramat Gan Mayor Israel Zinger was defeated by former MK Carmel Shama Cohen while in Rishon Lezion, incumbent mayor Dov Tzur lost to Raz Kinestalich. In Maalot-Tarshisha, veteran mayor Shlomo Buhbut, who has served for more than 40 years, lost to Arkady Pomerantz.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 14, 2018
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