Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is preparing a run for the Knesset, Channel 10 reported Sunday, and is signing up potential voters as Likud members. He ultimately aims to become prime minister, but won’t directly challenge Benjamin Netanyahu, the TV report added.
Barkat has worked hard in recent weeks to sign up thousands of supporters to the Likud party, in the hopes that they will form the nucleus of support to land him a viable spot on the party’s Knesset list in the next legislative elections, the TV station says.
His supporters reportedly come from beyond Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, including from major Likud-leaning cities like Ashdod and Ashkelon.
A statement from Barkat’s office said he was concentrating solely on Jerusalem for now, but did not rule out a future run.
“The mayor is focused exclusively on the advancement and development of Jerusalem,” according to the communique. “Barkat announced in advance that he would run for two to three terms as mayor, and in the next two years he will announce whether he will run for a third term.”
If Benjamin Netanyahu does not run again for prime minister, Barkat is reportedly planning to throw his hat into the ring for the party’s — and possibly the country’s — top spot. But if Netanyahu does run again next time, Barkat won’t run against him, according to Channel 10.
Barkat endorsed Netanyahu for prime minister in the last national elections, held earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Barkat announced Sunday that former rival Moshe Lion, who lost a mayoral campaign against Barkat in 2013, would join his “Yerushalayim Tatzliah” party (“Jerusalem will succeed”).
As part of the deal — which will expand Barkat’s slate in the municipality to six seats — Lion will hold the Community Administrations Department portfolio and head its committee.