Former mayor deposed by High Court claims has PM's support

Ex-Nazareth Illit mayor Gapso, removed from office following corruption charges, runs again, insists Netanyahu backs him. Meanwhile, High Court rules to depose Bat Yam mayor facing similar charges

Shimon Gapso, who up until recently served as Nazareth Illit's mayor, was forced by the High Court to step down from his position after being accused of accepting bribes.


In recent days he has been fighting the charges filed against him by Northern District prosecutors as well as contending for his old job. Now he claims that despite the charges, he still has the prime minister's support in the local elections, scheduled to take place this Tuesday nationwide.


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"A week ago I spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he expressed his support. At a personal level, I see a letter of endorsement from him as priceless. Since the High Court's decision I have spoken with him once, and I am proud of his support of me – despite the High Court's decision," Gapso said Saturday.


Gapso reportedly received a letter of endorsement from the prime minister, in which Netanyahu wrote: "As municipal elections near, I wish to express my support of Shimon Gapso. Shimon represents Nazareth Illit with determination, talent and devotion. He is the candidate that I endorse for the mayor of Nazareth Illit."


According to Gapso, "before the High Court (ruling), I had 61% approval ratings. Since the (ruling), support for me has risen to 69%. The prime minister has sent an unequivocal message. I am confident that I will win the elections, and the entire nation will know I'm innocent.


"For local residents, Netanyahu's support has little effect, but at a personal level it is very important. Even though (Avigdor) Lieberman is running a candidate against me, Netanyahu continues to support and invigorate my bid."


In a statement, the Likud said that at the beginning of September – before the High Court reached a decision in Gapso's matter – all of its incumbent mayors received a letter of support from the prime minister.


No joke

On Sunday, the High Court recreated the ruling, and decided to depose Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani, despite the fact the local elections are 48-hours away and despite a vote of confidence by Bat Yam city council Thursday.


However, in spite of the corruption charges, the High Court ruled that Lahiani will still be able to contend in Tuesday's elections. Thus, if he was to win reelection, the ruling would have removed Lahiani from the city council for only a day or two.


In explaining his decision, Chief Justice Asher Grunis wrote that "the city council vote (to keep Lahiani in his position despite corruption charges) treats the court's decision as a joke, despite the fact that it deposed two mayors in similar circumstances).


Israel Moskowitz is an Yedioth Ahronoth reporter



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פרסום ראשון: 10.20.13, 19:13
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