JERUSALEM MAYORAL RACE
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JERUSALEM’S MAYOR Nir Barkat is stepping down after two terms in office to pursue a seat in the Knesset at the next general election. His departure opens a race for one of the most desirable jobs in Israel.
The mayor of Jerusalem not only runs Israel’s largest city but has a high-profile role on the international stage.
Unlike other precarious political positions in Israel, the mayor has five uninterrupted years in office and a high chance of being re-elected as an incumbent.
With several months to go until the election on October 6, six candidates so far have announced they are running and at least five others are considering jumping in.
The two main questions hovering over the race are whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will endorse a candidate, and whether Strictly Orthodox rabbis will decide to field a candidate of their own or form an alliance with one of the nonCharedi candidates.
Mr Netanyahu will want to be sure he is backing the eventual winner and, if he is unsure, may choose not to endorse anyone.
The rabbis, meanwhile, prefer not to have a Charedi candidate and are trying to persuade one of the frontrunners to promise a clampdown on raucous night-life spots in the Mahane Yehuda market and the restaurant compound in the old train station, which is open on Shabbat, in return for their support. FRONT-RUNNERS
(1) ZEEV ELKIN
Likud’s Environment Minister, who also holds the Jerusalem Affairs portfolio in the cabinet, announced his candidacy last month. Mr Elkin has the advantages of cabinet experience and representing the largest party. But he isn’t Likud’s official candidate — yet. Mr Netanyahu is reportedly irritated at his confidante’s decision to run against his wishes, and may withhold his endorsement and party funding.
Mr Elkin is also not a Jerusalemite (though he has recently moved his address there) and will be accused of (2) MOSHE LEON
A city council member who ran for mayor in 2013 and came second, Mr Leon is backed by powerful politicians including Shas leader Arye Deri and Yisrael Beitenu boss Avigdor Lieberman. In the previous election he received most of the Strictly Orthodox vote.
He is also close to Mr Netanyahu, for whom he once worked as directorgeneral of the Prime Minister’s Office.
He has lived in Jerusalem for five years but is still considered by many