Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai has promised to resign as mayor immediately upon being sworn into the Knesset, but not until then.
Huldai, who announced the establishment of his party, Hayisraelim, (Hebrew for The Israelis) last week, called himself the most experienced person in Israel’s public sector and said he is “aiming as high as possible,” including offering himself as a candidate for prime minister.
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He also said the division between right and left is irrelevant now that recent normalization agreements with Arab states have taken the idea of annexing parts of the West Bank off the table.
“I’ve already finished my work, I’ve finished this in my life,” Huldai said in an interview with Channel 12 News on Saturday, referring to his role as Tel Aviv Mayor, one he's held for over 20 years.
Sources in Huldai's party told Haaretz recently that his refusal to demonstrate the seriousness of his nationwide political ambitions by giving up his mayoral post were harming the party’s electoral chances. Reports that Huldai used municipal resources for the sake of his national campaign are also damaging, they added.
In the latest election poll, the party won only five seats, down from eight or nine initially.
Huldai said on Saturday that he won’t resign before the elections because he has to “protect and manage the city” and prevent “irresponsible people” from exploiting the vacuum his absence would create.
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“Problems in managing the city have already begun,” he continued, adding that it was impossible to run a mayoral race simultaneously with the national election.
Earlier this week, Huldai fired Deputy Mayor for Child Development and Young Families Zipi Brand-Frank, claiming that she operated as a “municipality within the municipality.”
By law, once a mayor resigns, he is temporarily replaced by someone chosen by the city council until a new election is held, which must happen within 60 days. Huldai’s temporary replacement would likely be the number two in his city council faction, Deputy Mayor for City Development Doron Sapir.
So far, only one person has officially announced that he is running for mayor – Reuven Ladianski, chairman of the Green Seculars faction of the city council, who is also a deputy mayor. But Deputy Mayor for Construction and Infrastructure Assaf Harel told Haaretz two weeks ago that he plans to run, and Brand-Frank’s associates predicted that she will do so as well.
Sources in the Tel Aviv municipality also suggested Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the director of Ichilov Hospital and former coronavirus czar, as a possible candidate, but since he doesn’t live in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, he would have to move to be eligible.
Meanwhile, former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon's will not be running with Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party in the March 23 election, Lapid announced in a statement via Twitter.
"I deeply appreciate and respect Bogie Ya'alon and wish him good luck for his future path," Lapid tweeted.
Ya'alon is expected to make an announcement Sunday regarding his small right-wing Telem party in the upcoming election.