In Jerusalem Elections, ultra-Orthodox Voters May Unite Behind Religious Candidate in Runoff

Yossi Daitch, the ultra-Orthodox candidate who lost on Tuesday, tells religious-Zionist radio station 'haredi public would be happy if we unite behind [Moshe] Leon' ■ Secular candidate Ofer Berkovitch is counting on Likud's Zeev Elkin voters

Mayoral candidate Moshe Leon at a polling station during the municipal elections in Jerusalem, Oct. 30, 2018.
Emil Salman

Bad news for Ofer Berkovitch, the secular mayoral candidate in Jerusalem, – Yossi Daitch, the ultra-Orthodox candidate who lost the elections on Tuesday, hinted on Thursday that the ultra-Orthodox community is likely to support Moshe Leon in the second election round.

Berkovitch’s campaign staff still hopes the rift between the ultra-Orthodox factions of Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah will prevent the entire haredi public from voting for his rival, Leon, in the second round.

Daitch told Radio Kol Hai that "the whole Haredi public would be happy if we unite behind Leon.”

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He said he met Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and MK Meir Porush since the elections to consider Agudat Yisrael’s course. “We won’t hold the public in suspense, we’ll try to make a decision that everyone agrees on,” Daitch said.

Leon’s campaign staff expressed great optimism in anticipation of the second round. A campaign member said large hassidic groups in Jerusalem are inclined to vote for Leon and at a later stage an agreement may be made with all of Agudat Yisrael.

“They realized that they pulled the haredi rope too tight and must now congregate ahead of the general elections,” a source close to Leon said.

Leon also received encouraging messages from Minister Miri Regev and former minister Gideon Saar. His campaign staff are convinced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will announce his support for Leon soon, as well as outgoing mayor Nir Barkat and the heads of the right wing factions in the city council, such as Arye King and the religious-Zionist rabbis.

Berkovitch’s campaign staff say they feel support from the people who voted for Zeev Elkin, who lost. “If you put our voters and Elkin’s together it’s a victory. There’s a feeling of voters drifting in our direction,” a source close to Berkovitch said.

Berkovitch’s list, Hitorerut (Awakening), became the largest faction in the city council on Wednesday, after the soldiers’ votes gave it an extra seat. Meretz’s faction was reduced to one seat as a result. Hitorerut members pointed out that Leon’s list, Our Jerusalem, didn’t get even one seat on the city council and that an absolute majority of Leon’s supporters are ultra-Orthodox, who voted for him at the rabbis’ instructions.

“Leon received 80,000 votes but not a single seat on the council for his faction, he sold his soul to the ultra-Orthodox,” another confidant of Berkovitch said.

Leon’s people said that due to a mistake, the ballots of “Our Jerusalem” didn’t have Leon’s name on them, so voters didn’t know it was his list.

The election results show that in the haredi neighborhoods the voting turnout rate was about 10 percent higher than in most Jewish neighborhoods. Hitorerut activists said the most important thing in the second round is the organization on election day, especially since the polls will be open only from 1 P.M.

“Nobody will rest, everyone will go to voters’ homes to bring them out to vote,” an activist said.