Israeli Minister to Run in Jerusalem Mayoral Race as an Independent

Zeev Elkin's decision follows his failure to garner the support of the Likud organization in the capital

Zeev Elkin outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City.
Emil Salman

Unable to obtain the support of his own Likud party for his mayoral race in Jerusalem, Zeev Elkin has decided to go it alone and run as an independent. On a national level, Elkin is environmental protection minister and Jerusalem and heritage minister.

Elkin had hoped to obtain the support of the heads of the local Likud party in the city, but the negotiations ran aground. The Jerusalem Likud organization decided not to hold a primary election to choose the party’s candidate for the city’s mayoral race, but it has not ruled out throwing the party’s support behind one of the candidates in the race down the line.

Sources close to Elkin claim the talks fell apart over the local Likud leadership’s rejection of Elkin’s demand that a woman be placed in one of the top three slots on the party’s slate for Jerusalem city council. Instead,the local Likud branch demanded top billing, right behind Elkin, for two of its leaders, Elisha Peleg and Yaniv Vazana.

Peleg suggested that Elkin was making a mistake in going it alone as an independent, predicting that the public would not vote for him if he fails to obtain the support of his own Likud party. “I don’t understand his stubbornness,” Peleg said. “I think he has been influenced by extraneous considerations that aren’t in the interest of the movement. Everyone will go his own way, and I hope he is careful not to use the Likud’s name in his race.”

Absent Likud party support, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the party on a national level, will almost certainly also decline to support Elkin in the race, and at this point, the prime minister has not thrown his support behind Elkin in his mayoral bid. Sources in both camps have suggested, however, that Elkin’s Jerusalem electoral slate and Likud’s would be merged down the line, meaning that Likud would support Elkin’s candidacy in the end.

Elkin has found support among leading rabbis in the religious Zionist movement, including Dov Lior, the former chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba in the West Bank; Shlomo Aviner, a leading rabbi in the movement; and Rabbi Refael Feuerstein, a founder of the Orthodox Zohar movement.

Next week, after the Tisha B’Av fast day, Yosef Deutsch, an ultra-Orthodox member of the Jerusalem municipal council, will announce whether he will be running for mayor. If he does take the plunge, he will be the eighth candidate and could hurt the campaign of Moshe Leon, who is counting on the support if the ultra-Orthodox community his bid to become Jerusalem’s mayor.