The incumbent Nir Barkat supports Lion Moshe for the mayor of Jerusalem



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Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion has received a series of endorsements from current Mayor Nir Barkat of the Likud party and Jewish Home Home and several Likud ministers in a coup against rival Berber.

Six days before a second round that will take Leo to Berkovitch for the capital's leadership, Barkat – who defeated Lion shortly after a bitter mayoral race in 2013 – said he believed the Lion was the most suitable for the job.

"From my intimate knowledge of the two candidates and my work with the two, I have no doubt that the Moshe Lion is the best choice for Jerusalem," Barkat said in a statement late Wednesday.

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Barkat had previously supported Jerusalem's affairs minister Ze and Elkin, who was eliminated from the dispute after the first round of voting last Tuesday left him with less than 20% of the vote. Lion led with 33%, followed by Berkovitch with 29%, sending the pair to a second contest next week after no candidate got a minimum of 40% of the vote.

Lion has the support of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the ultra-Orthodox Shas faction and part of Torah Judaism, leading to charges of political involvement behind the scenes and negotiation at the national level to secure his position. That charge was largely led by Barkat during his acrimonious race against Leo in 2013, when his campaign accused his then rival of a political combination or a backdoor deal.

Even before Barkat's decision was formally announced, Berkovitch, a member of the city council on Wednesday, had criticized the mayor of Jerusalem for his alleged turnaround.

Ofer Berkovitch, candidate for mayor of Jerusalem and head of the Hitorerut movement (Awakening), is seen at the opening of Hitorerut's election campaign in Jerusalem on September 2, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

"The man who not long ago persuaded Jerusalem that he can not support the backdoor deal of [Shas Interior Minister Aryeh] Deri, [UTJ MK Moshe] Gafni and Liberman today tossed Jerusalem under the bus on their way to Likud, "Berkovitch said, referring to Barkat's bitter 2013 campaign which highlighted the longtime association between Lion, Liberman and Deri.

Berkovitch led the vanguard of the secularist flank of the city with his Hitorerut party and, despite years in the Jerusalem city council, campaigned as an immaculate foreigner by political trade.

In his statement, Berkovitch also noted that the Lion, despite winning a majority of votes last Tuesday, failed to win a single council seat for his party (voters choose a mayoral candidate and list separately). Berkovitch's Hitorerut party got six seats on the 31-seat board. The Lion will need special permission from the Home Office to govern the council if he is elected mayor, since he has no representation in the city government.

Earlier on Wednesday, the local chapters of the Likud and Jewish Home parties on Wednesday also supported Lion for work.

Lion is "the right person for mayor of Jerusalem," Likud said in a statement, adding that the "nationalist" views of the Jerusalem council fit our own. "Likud's local office has refrained from supporting Elkin, despite being a Likud midfielder, in a minor injury.

From the Jewish home, Jerusalem council member Chagit Moshe announced that his right-wing Orthodox party would be on the Lion's side.

"After much thinking and talking to the two candidates for mayor, we decided that Moshe Lion is the most suitable candidate to be mayor of Jerusalem," Moshe said in a statement. "Moshe Lion is a candidate with managerial experience and ability to govern such a large, complex and important city."

Likud ministers Tzachi Hanegbi and Yariv Levin also posted videos supporting the Lion on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to announce which candidate he will support after Elkin's defeat. In 2013, Netanyahu sent 43 letters of support to all Likud-backed candidates for local positions across the country, excluding only one: the Lion.

Leo thanked the various parties on Wednesday and Barkat for the support.

Accountant and former general director of the Prime Minister's Office in Netanyahu, the Lion has the support of much of the city's ultra-orthodox community.

The Hasidic faction Agudath Yisrael, who headed his own candidate – deputy mayor Yossi Deitch – in the first round, should also announce who will back Wednesday night.

Jerusalem next Tuesday, from 1:00 p.m. to 10 p.m., will go to a second round of voting to determine its next mayor.

Israel team teams contributed to this report.

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