Einat Kalisch-Rotem, the first woman to lead a major Israeli city, elected in Haifa

It comes as Jerusalem's contest produced an inconclusive result for the first time

October 31, 2018 15:27

Jerusalem’s residents will for the first time vote in a mayoral run-off after there was no outright winner in Tuesday’s local election.

Neither candidate in that contest will be Strictly Orthodox but the result is seen as a victory for the Charedi blocs that supported one of them.

Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, Mayor Ron Huldai won a fifth term in office, while another veteran incumbent, Yona Yahav of Haifa, lost by a landslide to a newcomer who becomes the first woman to lead a major Israeli city.

In Jerusalem, where there were four strong candidates for mayor, not one succeeded in receiving the 40 per cent necessary to avoid a second round.

The greatest upset of the race was the failure of Likud’s Environment Minister Zeev Elkin, who had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s backing, to make it to the run-off.

Mr Elkin came third after receiving only 20 per cent, despite Likud taking a third of the total Jerusalem vote in the national election three years ago.

His failure seems to be largely a result of the contest being dominated by the struggle between Charedi factions and the desire of Jerusalem’s secular communities to ensure they had a strong candidate as well.

Moshe Lion, a Modern Orthodox member of the city council, topped the first round by taking a third of the vote, thanks in large part to the support of Shas and the rabbis of the Charedi Lithuanian community.

He will face Ofer Berkovich, a 35 year-old secular council member, who came second with 28 per cent.

Mr Berkovich is now the leader of the largest party on the city council but the many Strictly Orthodox parties increased their representation as a whole and can command a majority on the council — if they can actually work together.

The split within the Charedi leadership meant that Yossi Deitch, the candidate of the Chassidic Agudat Yisrael party, the only Strictly Orthodox candidate, won only 17 per cent.

Results in Israel’s other two main cities were more clear cut. In Tel Aviv, where Ron Huldai’s 20-year mayorality appeared under threat by his one-time protégé Asaf Zamir, the polls proved to be unfounded.

Mr Huldai romped to victory by 47 per cent against Mr Zamir’s 34, proving that while voters may feel a little tired with him, they are not quite ready for a change yet.

The same could not be said for the residents of Haifa, who dismissed Yona Yahav after 15 years with only 38 percent of the vote. The winner, little-known architect Einat Kalisch-Rotem, was backed by Labour leader Avi Gabbay and managed in a very short time to build a coalition that spanned from Meretz on the left to the small Charedi community in Haifa.

With 55 per cent of the vote, she became the first woman to serve as mayor in one of Israel’s major cities.

October 31, 2018 15:27

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