In marmur

We had a second round of elections for mayor of Jerusalem. In the first round, none of the four candidates got the required minimum, so the two top contenders, Ofer Berkovitch and Moshe Lion, had to go for a second round.

I voted for Berkovitch not because of his alleged secularism but because he came across as young, enthusiastic, hard-working and imaginative who would do good things for Jerusalem. His team urged us to vote for him because he was (described in peculiar Hebrew) as being bli trikim uvli shtikim implying that Lion was full of tricks and shticks.

If true, the tricks and shticks worked: Lion was elected, albeit with a very narrow majority. No mayor can govern Jerusalem without making concessions to the ultra-Orthodox and Berkovitch had told us beforehand that he would include in his team the ultra-Orthodox mayoral candidate who came fourth in the first round. But Lion seems to share the views of extremists. He’s said to be close to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, an arch-secularists but, alas, also in many ways an extremist.

Another reason for voting for Berkovitch was because Israel’s interior minister Arieh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, characterized him as “the devil’s recruit” bent on destroying the holy city. In view of his history and record, anything Deri says and does should be viewed with disdain.

Lion’s election means that little will change in Jerusalem and nothing for the better. The ultra-Orthodox will continue to dominate. Not only will they justly be able to practice their religion to the full, to which they’re entitled in a democracy, but they’ll also try to impose their views on others by promoting actions that will further limit the freedom of non-Orthodox citizens of the capital.

Though Lieberman’s influence on Jerusalem through Lion may turn out to be bad for us all, some take comfort in the fact that Netanyahu’s – not his party’s – candidate Ze’ev Elkin for mayor of Jerusalem was eliminated in the first round, even though Elkin is currently the minister for Jerusalem in the Netanyahu government. In view of the national elections, expected within the next year, Elkin’s defeat may be a bad omen for the prime minister.

An even worse omen may be the agreement to halt hostilities between the Government of Israel and Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, after the recent flare-up following a botched covert operation by Israel that cost the life of a senior Israeli army officer and led to much destruction on both sides.

Ironically, while Hamas celebrated the truth as its victory over mighty Israel, Israelis living close to the border with Gaza came out to demonstrate against it. They accused the prime minister of letting them down by giving in to the enemy. Though Netanyahu is said to have tried to avoid a full-scale war in Gaza – and the Israeli casualties that would inevitably be the price – in the hope of winning another term in the general election, his seeming conciliatory mood may turn out to have the opposite effect.

It’s not a coincidence that even when reflecting on the new mayor of Jerusalem and on the continued tensions and casualties in Gaza I feel bound to make reference to the prime minister and his determination to stay in office for another term. It’s my (usually pessimistic) way of suggesting that things will get worse before, we pray, they may get better.

Jerusalem 14.11.18                                                                                                                                          Dow Marmur

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