Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has announced that he will not run for a third term as mayor in the upcoming municipal elections at the end of the year.
In a video posted on Facebook Sunday, he said he plans instead to stay on until a new mayor is elected and then seek a spot on the electoral slate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party in the next elections to the Knesset, which must be held no later than November 2019.
"I have decided to serve the country on a national level," he said. "Sixteen years ago, I devoted myself to saving Jerusalem. For a decade, together with a large number of partners, most notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we have put Jerusalem back on the growth track. After Jerusalem was back on the right path, I decided not to run for a third term." Barkat, a former high-tech executive, noted his belief "with all my heart" in the direction that Likud is taking.
Several other candidates have announced their intention to run for the Jerusalem mayoralty, including Moshe Leon, a former director of the Prime Minister's Office and a close associate of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman who lost to Barkat in the last mayoral election in 2013. Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, who was arrested last week on corruption suspicions, is also a declared candidate.
The other candidates are municipal opposition chairman Ofer Berkovitch of the pluralist Wake Up Jerusalem (Hitorerut) party; Yosef Havilio, the former legal counsel of the city; and a former aide to Barkat, Avi Salman. Among those running to succeed Barkat, who was first elected in 2008, Leon is currently thought to have the best prospects, in part due to the support that he garnered in the 2013 election from the city's large ultra-Orthodox population.
There is an increasing sense among the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community, however, that they will opt to put forward a candidate of their own rather than supporting Leon. If that happens, it is assume that the candidate will be Deputy Mayor Yosef Deutsch.