Gapso Out as Upper Nazareth Mayor, but Will He Still Pull Strings?

Netanel Twito, 29, has been made acting mayor, but most decisions will be made by a forum of city council faction heads.

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso in court: Indicted but reelected. (May 28, 2015)Credit: Rami Shlush
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

A new coalition agreement was signed Wednesday by the Upper Nazareth City Council in light of Mayor Shimon Gapso’s agreement to take a leave of absence until the end of judicial proceedings against him.

According to the agreement, Netanel Twito, 29, has been made acting mayor, but most decisions will be made by a forum of city council faction heads.

At the end of last month, after Gapso was convicted of bribery, he resumed the office of mayor – 14 months after he was suspended during the legal proceedings against him. He was able to do so because the conviction did not include a finding of moral turpitude.

Gapso was sentenced to six months in prison, converted to community service, a fine of 20,000 shekels (about $5,100) and a suspended sentence of 12 months in prison. Last week the prosecution appealed the sentence to the Supreme Court.

Alex Gadalkin, who heads one of the city council’s factions and was acting mayor during Gapso’s first suspension, received a letter from Gapso on the latter’s brief return, informing him that his powers as acting mayor were rescinded.

In a letter to Weinstein, Gadalkin wrote through his attorney, Gili Shefer, that Twito was to be appointed a salaried deputy mayor, which was against the law because Gadalkin already occupies that position. He also wrote that the new coalition agreement allows Gapso to direct the actions of the mayor.

Gadalkin told Haaretz Tuesday: “Personally it pains me greatly because the people who are hurt here are the citizens of Upper Nazareth.”

Gadalkin said Twito had been selected because Gapso wanted “a puppet on a string.”

Gadalkin noted that the new agreement made Dr. Shukri Awada, head of the Coexistence faction, a non-salaried deputy mayor. Gadalkin said Gapso had enlisted Awada only because he didn’t have a majority behind his “puppet” candidate.

According to Gadalkin, the move did not conform to Gapso’s mayoral campaign platform of Upper Nazareth as a Jewish city.

Gapso said in response that the coalition agreement would be examined by the attorney general and be changed if needed.

Twito said: “I regard my position as a means to two ends: economic and government stability and cooperation in the face of the challenges in the city.’