Firebrand Tiberias mayor booted from post over failure to pass budget
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Firebrand Tiberias mayor booted from post over failure to pass budget

Interior Ministry appoints new city council that will run northern town for next three years before new election called

Tiberias mayor Ron Kobi speaks in front of the new line of Saturday public transportation in the northern city on February 9, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Tiberias mayor Ron Kobi speaks in front of the new line of Saturday public transportation in the northern city on February 9, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin announced on Monday the dismissal of Tiberias Mayor Ron Kobi over the latter’s failure to pass a municipal budget.

Dubbed the “Donald Trump of the north” by Israeli media over his combative style, Kobi swept into local office in the fall of 2018 on a campaign that focused on the growing ultra-Orthodox community and its influence in the city, highlighted in a series of frequently foul-mouthed and menacing Facebook live videos.

He quickly went on to become the bête noire of the Haredi community after launching free bus lines on Saturdays in the city and expanding entertainment and commercial enterprises permitted to open on the Jewish day of rest, while pledging to restrict housing projects for ultra-Orthodox residents.

However, during all that time, he failed to form a coalition and with his party making up just six of the city council’s 15 spots, other members refused to get behind his budget proposals, even after he was given an extension until September 30, 2019.

Minister of the Interior and Shas party leader Aryeh Deri with Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Zeev Elkin during a vote on the next State Comptroller in the plenum hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, June 3, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli law allows the interior minister to depose a mayor who is unable to pass a budget for more than a year past his or her election. Due to a personal rivalry Interior Minister Ayreh Deri has held with Kobi, the former handed over jurisdiction on the matter to Elkin.

In a Monday statement, the environmental protection minister said he had reviewed Kobi’s and the Tiberias city council’s rationale for being unable to pass a budget and did not find it convincing enough to excuse him allowing them to remain in their posts.

Following Elkin’s decision, Deri appointed Interior Ministry deputy director Moni Ma’atok to chair a special committee that will run the city for the next three years until elections will be called. The council will be made up of other civil servants from the ministry.

“The most important thing for now is to get the city of Tiberias back on track,” Deri said in a statement, “and to do so in a manner in which the city’s residents will not be harmed.”

Kobi is expected to appeal to the High Court of Justice against his dismissal.

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