Ze'ev Elkin announces Jerusalem mayoral bid
Likud's environmental protection and Jerusalem affairs minister announces bid for capital's mayor, despite fact PM Netanyahu demurred on coming out and supporting him; Elkin says 'willing to give up position of senior minister, Cabinet member for Jerusalem, because it's national level challenge of paramount importance'; despite announcement, Hitorerut's Ofer Berkovitch still leading polls.
Jerusalem's local Likud chapter has yet to endorse the minister as its official candidate, however, which may affect the campaign finance budget Elkin is afforded.
"Dear Jerusalem residents," Elkin addressed his electorate directly on his Facebook page, "I have just notified the prime minister of my intention to run for mayor of Jerusalem."
"I am willing to give up the position of senior minister and Cabinet member for Jerusalem, because it is a national level challenge of paramount importance," he added.
Elkin had voiced his desire to run for the role of mayor of Israel's capital in the past few weeks, but wished to receive the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to doing so. Netanyahu, however, waffled on endorsing his party member and put off the decision time and again.
Finally, on the last day to announce candidacy before the electoral book is closed, Elkin decided to independently announce his bid.
Several people have already announced mayoral bids of their own, including Moshe Leon, who suffered a narrow loss to Barkat in the last elections, and chairman of the Hitorerut in Jerusalem movement Ofer Berkovitch, who is currently leading the polls.
Also in the running are former Jerusalem municipality legal adviser Yossi Havilio and businessman Avi Salman.
Havilio, who is also a chairman of the "Saving Jerusalem" movement, attacked Elkin after his announcement. "Elkin needs the 'hitchhiker's guide to Jerusalem,' because he's just another hitchhiker seeking to turn Safra Square (the seat of Jerusalem's mayor and municipality—ed) into a springboard en route to the next job," he attacked.
"Jerusalem is important enough to be led by a mayor who truly cares about the city, and not about his ability to attain self promotion at the city's expense. Electing Elkin will be continuing the Barkat era, when the city's interests were indentured to the political interests of the person leading it," he exclaimed.
Mayoral candidate and Hitorerut chief Berkovitch also weighed in on the minister's announcement, saying, "Jerusalem is not a duty roster for politicians. You don't become a Jerusalemite by changing your address to your parents' home.
"After a decade of municipal activity, I'm the most senior Zionist (meaning not Haredi) candidate in Jerusalem—against any other candidate, including Minister Elkin, a fact borne out by both polls and the field," Berkovitch stated.
"Jerusalem needs a connected leadership, that is highly familiar with the city and its needs and that is not tied down by outside political influence," he added. "I chair the largest Zionist movement in Jerusalem, which brings together voters from all across the political spectrum. I believe I will be the next mayor of Jerusalem."
A source close to Berkovitch wished to bring up the data collected in previous public opinion polls. A survey by the Midgam Institute, for instance, showed that in a runoff between Berkovitch and Elkin, the former comes out ahead by a margin of 51 percent of the vote to 49.
A survey carried out by the Likud party itself, meanwhile, pitted three candidates— Berkovitch, Elkin and Leon—and showed Berkovitch winning a plurality of votes with 22 percent compared to Leon's 21 and Elkin's 14.
City council member and holder of the community administration portfolio Moshe Leon announced his candidacy immediately after Barkat announced he will not be running, and said, "I have given my all to the capital as city council member and have deepened my involvement in the city's affairs."
"I have worked alongside Barkat in the last few years, and owe him a debt of gratitude for our joint work together," the mayoral candidate added. "We have worked together to march the city forward. I have contributed much to its development and am readier than ever to push the capital of Israel ever forward."