A day after Shas- and Yisrael Beytenu-backed candidate Moshe Lion fell short in his bid to be Jerusalem’s mayor, a rift between the parties appeared to break open over who was to blame for the loss.
Speaking to the ultra-Orthodox Kol Barama radio station, Shas head Aryeh Deri said Wednesday that Likud-Yisrael Beytenu “totally failed” to draw in votes for their mutual candidate.
Incumbent mayor Nir Barkat won 51% of the vote Tuesday, while Lion managed 45%, and Haim Epstein, an ultra-Orthodox dark horse, drew 3.5% of ballots.
Deri noted that his ultra-Orthodox Shas party was responsible for bringing 35,000 votes from Haredi neighborhoods, “all that it could,” while Likud-Beytenu “failed to deliver the goods.”
Lion ended with over 95,000 votes, shy of Barkat’s 111,000, according to the Jerusalem municipality’s unofficial figures late Wednesday.
Lion, who moved to the capital from Givatayim to contest the race, was viewed by many as an outsider parachuted to Jerusalem and backed by an unnatural Shas-Yisrael Beytenu coalition.
The race was portrayed in some quarters as a fight for the future character of Jerusalem, with Barkat representing its dwindling secular and modern Orthodox community, while Lion was much — but not all — of the ultra-Orthodox public’s candidate of choice.
The juxtaposition of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and the largely secular Yisrael Beytenu behind a single candidate was seen by some as an anomaly, as the two factions are often diametrically opposed on the national stage. Barkat characterized the pushing of Lion as a kombina, or sly political deal.
Lion, speaking to Channel 2 news on Wednesday, claimed secret “deals” between Barkat and other groups would soon become public. He said he felt “fine” despite the defeat, and that he intended on staying in Jerusalem “for the time being,” refusing to elaborate.
Aside from lashing out at Likud-Beytenu, Deri also accused some factions in the ultra-Orthodox community of quietly advocating for Barkat over Lion.
Yet Deri noted that Barkat was not “Yair Lapid (the finance minister from the centrist Yesh Atid faction who is pushing to draft ultra-Orthodox males into the IDF) or an oppressor of Jews,” adding that the reelected mayor was “not an enemy of the Haredi public.”
After the results came in late Tuesday and Lion conceded defeat, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman praised Lion’s candidacy at their end-of-campaign event. Deri did not attend.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report