News / Middle East

    Jerusalem Mayor Re-elected in Blow to Ex-FM Avigdor Lieberman

    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat waves as he campaigns for mayoral elections in Jerusalem, Oct. 22, 2013.
    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat waves as he campaigns for mayoral elections in Jerusalem, Oct. 22, 2013.
    Reuters
    The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem was re-elected on Wednesday in a hotly contested race that dealt a political blow to his challenger's main backers: former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
     
    Lieberman, a legislator whose far-right Yisrael Beitenu party is allied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud, is embroiled in a corruption case. A court verdict next month is likely to determine whether or not he returns to the cabinet.
     
    The Jerusalem race, in which his mayoral candidate, Moshe Lion, failed to unseat incumbent Nir Barkat, had been an opportunity for Lieberman to flex some political muscle.
     
    However, in a snub to Lieberman, Netanyahu did not endorse Lion - and flew to Italy on Tuesday for talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after casting his ballot in Jerusalem.
     
    Lion, a former aide to Netanyahu, took 45 percent of the vote to Barakat's 51 percent.
     
    Palestinians, who form about a third of Jerusalem's 750,000 people, usually boycott the mayoral race in protest of Israel's control of the eastern part of the city, captured in the 1967 war.
     
    For Shas, the contest was a chance to demonstrate its electoral power and show it could induce a large bloc of ultra-Orthodox voters to rally behind Lion, its favored candidate.
     
    Once a maker and breaker of coalition governments, Shas was not invited to join the one Netanyahu formed after a national election in January, handicapping its ability to channel public resources to its educational and social welfare institutions.
     
    The party, which draws its supporters from Israel's working class Sephardic community of Jews of Middle Eastern origin, has been in flux since the death of its spiritual head, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, two weeks ago.
     
    Ultra-Orthodox Votes
     
    Shas's main political leader, Arye Deri, joined Lieberman in backing Lion but failed to win support from ultra-Orthodox rabbis representing Ashkenazim, or Jews of European descent.
     
    Barkat, 54, called the election “one of the most complicated and difficult races” he had seen, but thanked the voters he said “gave us a mandate to lead the city with the same vision for the next five years.”
     
    A former high-tech tycoon, Barkat was first elected mayor in 2008 when he defeated an ultra-Orthodox leader in a contest that turned mostly on the city's sharp religious-secular divide. This time he won votes from secular and religious Israelis alike.
     
    Though a political independent, Barkat championed Jewish settlement building in east Jerusalem in his first term, supporting Netanyahu's policies, yet was seen as more pragmatic than his opponent.
     
    The Jerusalem contest was seen as the most strategic of nearly 200 local government elections held across Israel.
     
    In Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial centre, Mayor Ron Huldai was projected to win a fourth term in office in a race against Nitzan Horowitz, a dovish lawmaker who would have been the first gay mayor in the Middle East.

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    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    October 23, 2013 11:49 AM
    Please stop referring to part of Jerusalem as "occupied" or "captured". In short there is no 'West' or 'East' Jerusalem; there is simply Jerusalem which was, is, and will remain the capital of Israel. It was called the city of King David since more than 6000 years ago, and has ever remained a Jewish city. Even if a Palestinian state arises today to lay claim to one part of Jerusalem as its whatever, can the world that knows the history of the region not rise also to acclaim the truth that Jerusalem has been a city of Israel? Today China and Japan are fighting over a piece of land whose history is relatively obscure, but does that also apply to Jerusalem?

    The fear of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey cannot be the guiding principle in Middle East diplomacy. Somebody should rise and say the truth to save the region, or are we not yet tired of the acrimony, bloodbath and terrorism that this has inflicted on the world? I once heard that conscience is an open wound and only truth can heal it. Is the world totally bereft of conscience in our time?

    In the years BC the word 'Palestine" was unknown. In the early AD years it was so much the same, and when it came on, it revolved around Nimrod. Now we are inundated with sympathy for Palestine in abject rejection of conscience leading to more troubles in the world. The truth is that those so-called Palestinians in the city should forget Israel ceding the land to anyone. It is either they wake up and accept Israeli nationality, or they find their root. There is no alternative to that.

    by: PermReader
    October 23, 2013 9:42 AM
    Usual anti-Israel Reuters` post about not too bad Netanyahu but very bad party of Russian secular immigrants named "ultra-nationalists" as they are Israel`s patriots after their USSR` slavery.

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