'Centrist' Lawmaker Shai Eyes Jerusalem Mayoral Race

Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai waiting for survey results before making a final decision, will only run with backing from party

MK Nachman Shai in the Knesset, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) announced Monday that he plans to run for mayor of Jerusalem. He is, however, waiting for the results of surveys before making a final decision and will run only if his party agrees to back him.

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“I’ve decided to run,” he said. “But I don’t believe in an individual setting up a list. You need a bureaucracy and you need funding. The party is examining the situation to assess the chances.”

On his chances of getting the votes of the ultra-Orthodox, religious and right-wing communities of Jerusalem, Shai said, “While I don’t wear a skullcap other than when I go to synagogue on Shabbat, and I am a centrist in my ideology, I have proven in the past that I know how to unite people. Even today the base of my support is not political but because many people know me and admire me.”

Shai also explained why he thought the residents of the capital would vote for him even though he doesn’t live in the city but in the suburb of Mevasseret Zion.

“I was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Jerusalem, went to elementary school, high school and university in Jerusalem, my whole life I worked in Jerusalem and all my public positions were in Jerusalem. My father was named a Benefactor of Jerusalem and I lived in the city until I moved to Mevasseret a few years ago,” he said. “I’m ready and we will see how it goes from here.”

To run for mayor, however, he will be required to move back inside the city limits.

To date, several candidates have announced their candidacy for mayor, including Jerusalem City Council members Moshe Leon and Ofer Berkovich. Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin has said he will run if the prime minister and Likud support the move.

Mayor Nir Barkat announced two months ago that he will not run for a third term. Barkat will serve as mayor until the October elections and then run for a spot on the Likud list. Barkat has said several times that he sees himself as a candidate for the Likud leadership and for prime minister.