Kiryat Malakhi Mayor Motti Malka was remanded for a fourth time on Wednesday in his ongoing investigation for rape, extortion and taking bribes, setting off a firestorm in the city council over who would replace him.
It was supposed to be a routine meeting to choose an acting mayor to replace Malka for one month. But it turned into the stormiest session anyone present could remember, when dozens of city residents came and refused to stop protesting.
"You should be ashamed! You should all go home!" screamed one, Eli Garbi. "Everyone knew what was happening here, but like sheep you kept silent and allowed all this corruption to take place under your noses. There are no excuses - 'we didn't know, we didn't hear.' You should all resign. You have no right to represent us."
Deputy Mayor Boris Borochov, who chaired the meeting, could barely get a word in edgewise, as protesters repeatedly erupted in similar outbursts. They also waved signs with slogans such as "Where is the shame?" and "We have no faith in you, go home," and at one point, they all donned masks, "because of the stink here."
Opposition member Yossi Hadad quieted the crowd - and then elicited cheers - when he made an impassioned speech saying, "We're all guilty. Let's return the keys and ask the interior minister to call elections. We owe this to the public."
But the rest of the council was unimpressed. It proceeded to elect Deputy Mayor Haim Steiner, who beat Borochov six votes to five, as acting mayor. That provoked fresh outbursts from the crowd.
"We'd prefer a va'ada kru'a" - a city council appointed by the Interior Ministry - "to having you continue to run the city!" shouted Shai Saban.
"Public sentiment in the city is that council members failed in their job and betrayed the public's trust," explained Elior Amar, adding that he too would prefer an appointed council or new elections. "The council members knew many of the details of the various corruption scandals that police suspect Mayor Motti Malka and other senior municipal officials of being involved in ... Even the least of the city's uninvolved residents knew and saw. But they closed their eyes and refused to see what was happening."
Malka was three and a half years into a five-year term.
His remand hearing at the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court also opened with a surprise, when police asked that he be held in jail for another seven days because new crimes had been discovered. Until then, Malka had been expecting to be released to house arrest.
"On the 21st of the month, a new rape was discovered that we hadn't known existed," a police representative explained, adding that it took place in Malka's office. A new case of forcible sexual assault had also come to light, he said.
Malka had previously been suspected of raping a municipal employee, extorting sexual favors from a single mother in exchange for reduced city taxes, and taking bribes - including an apartment - from contractors.
In light of the new allegations, the court agreed to extend his remand.
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