Cronyism's Candidate: Jerusalem Deserves Better

Moshe Leon's unworthy mayoral candidacy is the shady fruit of a political alliance forged not around the interests of Jerusalem's residents.

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As mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat has nurtured the right-wing’s settlement vision and consistently supported groups, such as Ateret Cohanim and the Elad association, that work actively for the “Judaization” of the capital’s Arab neighborhoods. Barkat has facilitated the expansion of Jewish settlement in these neighborhoods, declared his admiration for the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a supporter of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and in the recent election for chief rabbi even supported Eliyahu’s son - Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who issued a ruling against the sale or rent of apartment to Arabs.

All this erodes his public image and raise concerns that as mayor he is subject to the influence of right-wing scofflaws and a racist ideology. But the alternative being posed to Barkat in the municipal elections later this month is far more dangerous, because it seeks to undermine the principle of proper local administration and makes a mockery of the institution of the municipality as an entity meant to serve the city’s residents, first and foremost.

The candidacy of Moshe Leon, a Givatayim accountant and political activist who is a close associate of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, is a candidacy born in sin. It was not spurred by a desire to benefit Jerusalem and its residents, but the fruit of a political alliance between two savvy politicians, one of whom, Aryeh Deri, is a convicted criminal, and the other is on trial for fraud and breach of trust.

Lieberman isn’t trying to hide the fact that he has been Leon’s patron for years, having pushed for his appointment to several positions. In 1997 Lieberman got Leon chosen to replace him as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term. Leon’s tenure there ended with a police recommendation that he be charged for his involvement in a case involving Netanyahu and his wife Sarah’s alleged nonpayment for construction work, in return for granting a contractor favors. The case was eventually dropped by then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein.

Lieberman continued to take care of his crony, appointing Leon chairman of Israel Railways during his term as transportation minister. Now, Lieberman is serving as head of Leon’s campaign team and one can’t avoid the impression that Lieberman’s true aim is to strengthen his position in Jerusalem’s Likud branch and gain access to political patronage jobs in the capital.

The alliance with Deri, who wants to return the Haredi parties to the position of power they held in the days when Ehud Olmert and Uri Lupolianski ran the city, reflects the essential interests behind Leon’s candidacy. Jerusalem is an important and strategic city, which deserves a mayor committed to its interests and not those of political elements looking to accumulate power and position at the expense of the city’s residents. Moshe Leon is not worthy of being mayor of Jerusalem.

Moshe Leon campaigning in Jerusalem. July 22, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman

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