Israel Interior Minister Attacks Mayoral Candidate: ‘The Devil Wants to Make Jerusalem Secular’

Ahead of Tuesday’s mayoral election, Shas leader Arye Dery says ‘entire left’ is supporting Berkovitch

Israel Interior Minister Arye Dery in Jerusalem, April 15, 2018.
Alex Kolomoisky

Interior Minister and Shas leader Arye Dery says the devil is working for the election of Ofer Berkovitch in Tuesday’s mayoral election in Jerusalem.

“The devil has issued a call-up order and recruited all of his forces,” Dery told a Shas gathering in Jerusalem last week. “When you look at these forces, it’s not just Jews who are far [from tradition] or secular Jews. Unfortunately, although granted that they are on the margins … I also see the devil recruiting everyone, trying in all kinds of ways and lies, dividing and conquering, and using anything possible.”

In a video clip that was posted Sunday on the ultra-Orthodox Behadrei Haredim website, Dery speaks about Berkovitch’s opponent, Moshe Leon, with whom he is close. Dery said that the late Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was the Shas party’s spiritual leader, had supported Leon, adding that all current religious leaders support him “against a candidate who is not at all religious.”

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Dery accused Berkovitch of wanting to make Jerusalem more secular, of wishing to “turn our holy city, Jerusalem” into a city like any other. “Unfortunately, the devil has issued a call-up order and has recruited all of his forces,” he added.

Billboards promoting Jerusalem mayoral candidates Ofer Berkovitch (left) and Moshe Leon (right), October, 2018.
Emil Salman

In a reference to the publisher of Haaretz, the interior minister said: “Of course, the entire left, Amos Schocken is enlisting its force[s] and the Haaretz newspaper for the secular candidate in Jerusalem. What’s more, he doesn’t even live in Jerusalem.”

Berkovitch’s Hitorerut party said security around Berkovitch was being tightened in the wake of Dery’s comments and threats that had been received. The party referred to “entire teams of criminals who are defacing Hitorerut signs, who are damaging the democratic process and inciting in every direction against Ofer Berkovitch and the Hitorerut movement.

“It is inconceivable that a cabinet member in the State of Israel would express himself in such a manner,” Hitorerut said, maintaining that a red line had been crossed following other acts of incitement against the party.

Early Friday thousands of notices were posted around Jerusalem directed at the city’s ultra-Orthodox population and making a variety of promises. They were perceived as being in support of Leon, but Leon’s campaign headquarters denied it, saying they were designed to harm his reputation among non-ultra-Orthodox residents of the city.

One of the versions of the posters promised the ultra-Orthodox “full control” of the local religious council and of the Chief Rabbinate. Another said Leon would give the ultra-Orthodox control of the neighborhood administration in Ramot, a Jerusalem neighborhood where a large number of secular residents live.

In denying that he was behind the posters, Leon tweeted: “Berkovitch is losing his senses as well as the last drops of integrity that he has and is opting for ugly incitement.”

Leon accused Berkovitch’s headquarters of fabricating the posters in the hope they would undermine support for Leon. Hitorerut denied this and said if Leon had such suspicions, he should file a complaint with the police.