Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday endorsed Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin for mayor of Jerusalem, almost two months after Elkin informed him of his decision to run.
“I support minister Ze’ev Elkin for mayor of Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “As an MK, as a minister, and particularly as the Jerusalem affairs and heritage minister, minister Elkin has done so much for our capital and proved that it is close to his heart and very dear to him. I wish him great success.”
When he announced his candidacy on May 31, Elkin, a member of the prime minister’s Likud party, said that he expected Netanyahu to support him.
“The prime minister knew that I was going to make the announcement today,” Elkin said at the time. “I respect that he is taking another week or two to finalize his position.”
Outgoing mayor Nir Barkat, who has headed the city council for a decade, endorsed Elkin last month. Barkat announced in March he would not seek a third term and will instead run for Knesset on the Likud party ticket.
Transport Minister Israel Katz welcomed and echoed Netanyahu’s endorsement.
“I am convinced that Ze’ev is the most suitable person to lead the city in this sensitive and challenging time and to strengthen it against all those who challenge Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” he tweeted.
Likud MK Miki Zohar also added his support following Netanyahu’s statement.
“There is no one better suited to lead the capital city of the State of Israel,” he tweeted.
When announcing his candidacy, Elkin stressed the sacrifice he would be making if he became mayor.
“I am willing to give up the position of a senior minister and member of the security cabinet for the sake of Jerusalem because Jerusalem is a challenge at a national level of the utmost importance,” Elkin, who also serves as environmental protection minister, said.
Jerusalem’s municipal elections on October 30 will see Elkin run against at least half a dozen candidates, including Deputy Mayor Moshe Lion, ex-deputy Jerusalem mayor and current Knesset member with Kulanu Rachel Azaria, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, political activist and councilor Ofer Berkovich, right-wing activist and Jerusalem city councilman Aryeh King, and ultra-Orthodox Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitch.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.