Mayors Slam Netanyahu and Shalom's 'Power Struggle'

Criticism comes after PM and his deputy were forced to rush between two events held simultaneously by the pair.

Mayors from the north criticized a so-called "power struggle" between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom Tuesday after they were forced to rush between two events held simultaneously by the pair.

Around 50 mayors left the sixth Annual Galilee Conference hosted in Nahariya by Shalom immediately after the vice prime minister's opening remarks in order to arrive in time for Netanyahu's meeting, which took place at the same time in Haifa, some 40 kilometers away. Many of them said they made an effort to attend both, though one criticized the two men's "kindergarten-style power struggle."

Netanyahu at the Technion
Hagai Frid

The mayors were already scheduled to attend the Galilee Conference - one of the most important events organized by the Regional Development Ministry - when Netanyahu's invitation to an "intimate meeting" with the prime minister arrived a few days ago. Some mayors said it was a bid to upstage Shalom.

"It is very embarrassing and obviously it was done on purpose," said one mayor and long-time Likud party member, who asked to remain anonymous. "Two conferences take place in the north at the same time. It's absurd."

Mayors from Rosh Pina, Abu Snan, Carmiel, Tiberias, Kafr Kana and other municipalities left the Galilee Conference before an address by President Shimon Peres, saying that "you don't get to meet the prime minister every day."

Safed Mayor Ilan Shohat, who remained at the Galilee Conference, said Netanyahu's move undermines the region's development efforts. "The situation was really unpleasant," he said. "The Galilee Conference is a landmark event that should be supported. I stayed in Nahariya out of respect for the sponsor and the president."

"There is a time and place for everything," Shohat added.

When asked why two conferences were held simultaneously, Netanyahu replied that "we're holding several events today, here and in Nahariya.

"It reflects the unremitting commitment of the government to develop the Galilee," he said and the audience burst out laughing.

Shalom's aides refused to comment on the mayors' absence and said that cabinet ministers and other dignitaries attended the conference and that it was very successful. "Minister Shalom is concerned with the development of the Galilee and leaves other concerns to others," his spokeswoman said.

Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, the minister's wife, posted a link to yesterday's Haaretz story about the clashing meetings on her Twitter account followed by the word "contemptible."