Shlomo Ne’eman cruised to an electoral victory for the third time in less than two years Tuesday evening, defeating challenger Moshe Seville in a runoff vote to maintain his position as chairman of the West Bank’s Gush Etzion Regional Council.
Ne’eman earned 4,245 votes (56%) to Seville’s 3,364 (44%) in a race that many in the settlement bloc southeast of Jerusalem expected would have been closer. But an endorsement from Yaron Rosenthal, who won nearly a third of the votes in the first round last month, likely helped tip the race in favor of the incumbent.
A former Jewish Agency official and aid to Likud’s Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Ne’eman has headed the Gush Etzion Regional Council since a surprise victory over Seville in a February 2017 special election.
The 45-year-old resident of Karmei Tzur replaced Davidi Perl, who stepped down from the position after allegations that he sexually assaulted a Jerusalem woman and paid her off to keep quiet.
ברכות לאחי ורעי, שלמה נאמן, על הניצחון בבחירות לראשות מועצת גוש עציון! pic.twitter.com/hC6jOkBLoK
— Zeev Elkin (@zeev_elkin) November 13, 2018
Speaking to reporters after his victory, Ne’eman said he planned “to go right back to work” for the regional council which represents 20 communities and some 17,000 residents.
He said he intended to continue lobbying the government to annex the Gush Etzion bloc as well as the entire West Bank.
Ne’eman’s victory Tuesday is believed to represent a victory for the settler establishment, embodied most prominently by the Yesha Council of which Ne’eman has been an active member and a possible candidate to one day head the umbrella body.
The Yesha Council saw several of its active members replaced in the first round of municipal elections last month by more hawkish candidates looking to push the umbrella body further to the right and into increased friction with the current government. These firebrands such as the Binyamin Regional Council chairman Yisrael Gantz and Kiyat Arba-Hebron Local Council chairman Eliyahu Libman will be joined by several other anti-establishment council chairmen that managed to maintain their seats in the October 30 vote.