Jerusalem mayor embraces opponents in city hall coalition

Nir Barkat says former rival Moshe Lion to leave opposition, along with newly named deputy mayor

Moshe Lion (Raphael Ahren/ Times of Israel)
Moshe Lion (Raphael Ahren/ Times of Israel)

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Sunday announced that his former rival, Moshe Lion, who lost a mayoral campaign against Barkat in 2013, would join his party “Jerusalem Tatzliah” (Jerusalem will succeed).

As part of the deal, which will expand Barkat’s slate in the municipality to six seats, Lion will hold the Community Administrations Department portfolio and head its committee.

Jerusalem council member Yael Antebi, who currently heads the “Pisgat Ze’ev on the Map” party, will also team up with Barkat’s faction, becoming the deputy mayor in November when current deputy mayor Kobi Kahlon resigns.

“I congratulate Moshe Lion on joining the coalition and the ‘Jerusalem Tatzliach’ party under my leadership. We are facing huge challenges for the continued growth and prosperity of Jerusalem, including increasing the government budgets, improving the quality of life in various areas and investments in the city’s neighborhoods,” Barkat said in a statement.

The Jerusalem mayor also welcomed Antebi to the coalition.

Lion said his party was “committed to the residents of Jerusalem,” which is why “I decided to join Mayor Nir Barkat’s coalition and join his faction so that our joint activities will bring Jerusalem forward.”

Lion, an accountant from Givatayim, has served on the Jerusalem city council since his failed mayoral bid in 2013.

He was urged to run for mayor by his close friend and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who ran his election campaign.

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat seen on top of the Tower of David Museum, on April 14, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat seen on top of the Tower of David Museum, on April 14, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

On October 24, two days after he lost his election bid, garnering a creditable 45% of the vote (compared to 51% who cast their ballot for Barkat), Lion said he was unsure whether he would join the city council. “I have held much more senior positions; I will need to consider where I will go,” the former director of the Prime Minister’s Office told Israel Radio at the time. “As you know, I have other private pursuits here, and it’s entirely possible that I will continue in my private business.”

Before the election, Lion had repeatedly stated that the well-being of Jerusalem was dear to his heart. “It’s time Jerusalem had [a mayor] who can bring about a real revolution,” Lion told Channel 2 news two days before the polls opened, explaining that he had 15 years of “action for the sake of Jerusalem, albeit quiet and understated,” behind him to back up his candidacy. “It’s a real mission for me.”

Barkat, after failing to win a 2003 bid for mayor, sat on the city council for five years before mounting his successful campaign in 2008.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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