For Bloch, against the bloc: 8 things to know for November 1
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Israel media review

For Bloch, against the bloc: 8 things to know for November 1

Women are doing it (getting elected) for themselves, with a little help from some ultra-Orthodox mavericks. Can Jerusalem’s Berkovitch lasso in the Haredi radicals as well?

Aliza Bloch celebrates with supporters on November 1, 2018. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)
Aliza Bloch celebrates with supporters on November 1, 2018. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

1. Bloch buster: The front page of Yedioth Ahronoth features a group picture of many (but not all) of the first time mayors and council heads chosen in Tuesday’s local election. The picture is missing the three biggest first-time mayors: Jerusalem’s Moshe Lion or Ofer Berkovitch, because they still need a runoff, Haifa’s Einat Kalisch Rotem, likely because she was too busy to go to some photoshoot, and Beit Shemesh’s Aliza Bloch, who only clinched the win in the dead of night after garnering the lion’s share of prisoner, soldier and special needs ballots.

  • Her election may be the biggest of all, given the city’s tortured slide into ultra-Orthodox repressiveness. Bloch was considered a long shot to beat Moshe Abutbul, but as the religious former school principal told ToI in 2013 (when she first tried to mount a run at Abutbul), there’s something for everybody in her.
  • “I think I am a bridge for everybody,” she told The Times of Israel back then. “For the Haredim, I can work as a bridge, and also for the secular. My entire life, I’ve worked with secular people, and I am part of the religious Zionist movement, and I think I have the opportunity to be a bridge between these worlds.”
  • Despite only getting the necessary votes at 3 a.m. Bloch was still able to muster 200 supporters for her victory speech, Haaretz reports.
  • The paper attributes her victory to managing to get some ultra-Orthodox to her side, including Adina Bar-Shalom, the daughter of late Shas spiritual head Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (despite the fact that Abutbul was a Shas man.)

2. Crack in the glass ceiling: Bloch’s win makes her the 11th woman at the head of a city or regional council, up from seven before the election, but far from the 240 men helming every other city and council.

  • The stark gap is apparent even in Yedioth’s first-timers picture, which has three women and 14 men.
  • That’s good news at least for the ultra-Orthodox press, which refuses to print pictures of women. A special election edition of the magazine Mishpacha heralds the changings of the guard, including a picture of Haredi men and boys to somehow stand in for Haifa’s Kalisch Rotem, and getting away with a picture of Abutbul instead of Bloch for Beit Shemesh.
  • “Is this the end of Haredi rule” in Beit Shemesh, the paper asks, calling Bloch’s possible success an upheaval.
  • On Twitter, reporter Yair Ettinger notes wryly that one paper’s Haredi rule is another paper’s Haredi takeover.

3. Looking at other women: Yet it seems to be the ultra-Orthodox who are willing to go against the grain that makes things happen, even if it means supporting women.

  • Just as Bloch was helped by Haredi radicals who voted for a non-ultra-Orthodox candidate, Haifa’s new mayor also owes her win to support from the ultra-Orthodox who despite refusing to put up female candidates themselves, can still vote for them, according to Haaretz’s lead editorial.
  • “Ultra-Orthodox support for Haifa’s new mayor demonstrates that the exclusion of women – in politics and other realms – is not a decree from heaven or holy concept in Jewish law, but is primarily derived from power struggles. There’s no justification for agreeing to a discriminatory attitude toward half the population.”

4. Black-hatted mavericks: In Jerusalem, Hadashot news reporter Amit Segal notes that while Lion has a guaranteed bloc of Haredi voters with little room to expand beyond that, Berkovitch’s advantage is that he isn’t beholden to any particular bloc and could try to rally everybody else.

  • ToI’s Marissa Newman notes that the black-hatted mavericks will also be the deciding factor in Jerusalem.
  • “Even assuming generously that Lion will take three-quarters of Elkin’s share — or some 35,000 voters — and retain his 80,000 Haredi supporters come mid-November, he is not necessarily guaranteed a victory, in the long-shot event Berkovitch scores the Hasidic and hardline Haredi vote and raises turnout rates among the secular,” she writes.
  • “Whether this would happen, however, depends on whether heated internal Haredi divisions triumph over religious considerations.”

5. There goes the neighborhood: As for Jerusalem’s city council, Israel Hayom’s Nadav Shragai notes the ultra-Orthodox hold the power there too, with old power structures like Likud barely making it over the threshold. “Lion’s list, which is associated with the old guard, didn’t even make it onto the council, and if he wins he’ll have to be appointed mayor by the interior minister by law,” he writes.

  • Haaretz’s Nir Hasson writes that the upshot means the chances of Jerusalem becoming a more open secular city are pretty much nil, no matter who becomes mayor.
  • “These results mean that if Leon becomes mayor, Jerusalem over the next five years will become more Haredi and restricted, with less territory and freedom for the pluralistic public. If Berkovitch wins, he will be forced to deal with a defiant council and a very fragile coalition. He will be squeezed between his secular supporters and his Haredi political partners,” he writes.

6. Too close for comfort: Brazilian “Trump” Jair Bolsonaro, who recently won his own runoff to become the country’s president, tells Israel Hayom that he’ll recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, kinda.

  • When asked about moving the embassy, he answers: “Israel has state sovereignty. If you decide on your capital, we will go according to that.”
  • Bolsonaro also seems to stick with his promise to shut the Palestinian embassy in Brazil. His reasoning though is that “it was built too close to the presidential palace. No embassy is allowed to be that close. So we intend to move it since there is no other way.”
  • The claim is strange, since Brasilia is carefully planned and the Palestinian Embassy appears to be in an area demarcated for foreign missions, on a plot next to the Mozambique and Armenian embassies. The plot about is 400 meters (1,300 feet) closer to the palace than the Portuguese embassy, which appears to be the next closest.
  • But he also admits the real reason: “As far as I think, by the way, Palestine needs to be a state before it can have an embassy.”

7. Brown shirts, brown noses: Netanyahu’s office is already signalling he will travel to Brazil for Bolsonaro’s inauguration as he seek to form yet another bond with a far-right leader.

  • His closeness with US President Donald Trump, including in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, has drawn a fair amount of criticism on both sides of the ocean, with Haaretz leading the way.
  • A column by Noa Osterreicher in the paper, though, appears to out-Haaretz all previous attempts to shock and awe readers, essentially accusing the Netanyahu government of being part of an anti-Semitic conspiracy with Trump.
  • “The right is convinced that they’re part of the in-crowd. As long as they shout out loud enough that they’re not at all like those Jewboys in exile, the cosmopolitan Zeligs and nebbishes; as long as they can swear they’re a new type of Jew, muscular and proud, and that they hate Arabs and black people more than anyone, they have no cause to worry. The Israeli right won’t agree to go like lambs to the slaughter: It will play the part of the shepherd (or at least the role of the shepherd’s largest donor),” she writes.

8. Shh during shiva: A more even-keeled Dan Shapiro asks much more politely that Israelis who came to Pittsburgh to pay their respects should pipe down, much like he did when he made condolence calls as the US envoy to Israel.

  • “Please remember that you are in our shiva house. The families of the deceased suffer most of all, of course. But the entire Jewish community of Pittsburgh, indeed, all American Jews, feel that they have had their hearts ripped out,” he writes in the Forward.
  • “Israel has much to offer to the discussion on the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in America. But as you make your rounds this week, please listen. Even if you hear things you disagree with. Please don’t bring politics into the discussion, in your private visits or your public remarks on these events. Not during shiva.”
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