Knesset advances bill that would allow Tiberias mayor to run in October

Acting Mayor Boaz Yosef needs to sit out an election cycle before running to lead his city — unless fast-tracked Likud-sponsored bill changes the rules of the game

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Tiberias Acting Mayor Boaz Yosef on the city promenade, May 15, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Tiberias Acting Mayor Boaz Yosef on the city promenade, May 15, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The Knesset advanced a bill on Wednesday that would cancel the cooling-off period for caretaker mayors and their appointed staff, five months ahead of October’s municipal elections.

Sponsored by Likud MK Amit Halevi, the bill is seen as personally tailored to aid Tiberas Acting Mayor Boaz Yosef, who would otherwise be barred from the upcoming contest.

The bill generated outrage within Likud itself, and a number of lawmakers arranged to skip Wednesday’s preliminary vote, which nevertheless cleared 46 to 41.

Yosef has served as Tiberias’s acting mayor since 2020, appointed by then-interior minister Aryeh Deri after mayor Ron Kobi was removed from office. Yosef is said to be a close associate of Shas leader Deri.

The one-term cooling period rule was introduced in 2008, in light of the fact that acting mayors and their convened committee colleagues are appointed by the Interior Ministry and not elected by voters, and thus should not enjoy the structural advantage of an incumbent.

Addressing the plenum after the vote, Yesh Atid MK Ron Katz accused the dozen Likud lawmakers who skipped the vote of arranging to pair off with opposition lawmakers, rather than take a stand and vote against what he called an improper measure.

Likud MK Amit Halevi leads a House Committee meeting at the Knesset on March 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He echoed comments from former justice minister and National Unity MK Gideon Sa’ar, who accused the coalition of legislating in a “blitz” and predicted the bill wouldn’t stand up to judicial review.

The bill itself had received an exemption from the Knesset’s 45-wait period between initial submission and coming up for its first vote, but the Ministerial Committee on Legislation declined to rule on whether to give it the government’s backing.

Halevi has said that the bill restores democratic choice to voters, but he has absorbed flak from within Likud, where MK Tally Gotliv accused him of pushing a piece of personally tailored legislation.

Gotliv shared her criticism in an internal Likud WhatsApp group last week, where she said the bill has a “bad smell.”

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