Bayit Yehudi launches anti-Haredi campaign in Jerusalem
A campaign launched by the Bayit Yehudi party in Jerusalem shows three main candidates in the running to become the city's mayor wearing photoshopped Haredi attire and accompanied by a provocative slogan: 'While they are worried about their fate, only a Bayit Yehudi win will stop the influence of the ultra-Orthodox'; Campaign was apparently started in an attempt to deter the candidates from pandering to Haredi electorate; 'The reality of life proves that making Jerusalem more and more ultra-Orthodox keeps the Zionist and secular public away from it.'
The party does not actually have a representative running for the position and the three leading candidates currently in the race are: Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), member of the city council Ofer Berkowitz and Moshe Leon, who is running as an independent candidate.
All three are reinforcing the ultra-Orthodox message in order to increase their chances of winning. The Bayit Yehudi campaign explores this aspect as they put up banners around the city showing the three candidates wearing photoshopped ultra-Orthodox attire.
"While they are worried about their fate, only a Bayit Yehudi win will stop the influence of the ultra-Orthodox," exclaims the banners’ slogan.
The slogan of the campaign, incidentally, is reminiscent of the famous statement about the casino: "In Zionist enterprise - the house always wins!"
The goal of the campaign is to increase the number of its members in the city council—which currently has only two Bayit Yehudi members serving there—Hagit Moshe, head of the party’s Jerusalem branch and Dov Kalmanovich.
"We have nothing against the Haredim, but the reality of life proves that making Jerusalem more and more ultra-Orthodox keeps the Zionist and secular public away from it," said a party’s representative in the city’s municipality.
The party’s campaign is a strategic change since Kalmanovich, during his last term in office, voted with the ultra-Orthodox on various issues, such as against the decision to allow businesses to stay open in the city during the Shabbat.
The party reiterates that the campaign is about the composition of the next coalition in the municipality, no matter who wins the election.
"Elkin, Leon or Berkowitz, must not face the ultra-Orthodox by themselves. The religious Zionism factions must play a big part in the coalition in order to ensure that Jerusalem will be a capital of all Israeli society, not only of a small sector," said Hagit Moshe.
The data indicates that over the past years, the mayoral elections in the city have been decided by the ultra-Orthodox public.
In the 2013 election, Nir Barkat won by forming an alliances with the Haredim.
The National Union party strongly condemned the campaign saying it is designed to create a division between the right-wing factions.
"The National Union party wishes to distance itself from the painful campaign. Jerusalem is a city of unity, and creating division among the population is not our way. We’re investigating with our partners how such a campaign could have gone ahead and we’ll make sure it is shelved immediately. It is unacceptable to us and we apologize for the terrible mistake that has been made, and ask for forgiveness of all those who have been hurt by it," concluded the statement.
Chairman of the Bayit Yehudi party, Naftali Bennett, has also denounced the campaign saying he had no prior knowledge on the issue.
"The Bayit Yehudi party strongly condemns the elections campaign created by the party's Jerusalem branch. The leadership of the party on the national level had no prior knowledge on the matter and does not share the views represented in it," said the education minister via his official Twitter account.
MK Ze'ev Elkin also addressed the issue in an interview with Ynet, denying claims he intends to pander to the Haredi electorate.
"I hear that there is great resentment towards the campaign within the Bayit Yehudi party, because it is really unwise … I have had four years of experience heading a coalition made up of both: ultra-Orthodox and anti-religious parties, and I knew how to connect all of them together when a complex decision had to be passed. You can not blackmail or overpower me," he exclaimed.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitch praised Bennett’s decision to distance himself from the controversial campaign.
"I welcome Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s quick response and condemnation of this ugly campaign,” he added.
Deitch also urged the candidates to be respectful to each other.
“I call on all the candidates and all the parties: Please watch your language and run a campaign that is respectful towards every person and every sector," he concluded.