Mayor of ultra-Orthodox settlement charged with buying votes

Ezra Gershi accused of promising Chabad members funds and jobs in Emmanuel local council in exchange for support in 2013 poll

Emmanuel mayor Ezra Gershi speaks in his office in December 11, 2011. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Emmanuel mayor Ezra Gershi speaks in his office in December 11, 2011. (Screen capture/YouTube)

The mayor of an Israeli West Bank settlement was indicted Tuesday for allegedly bribing local members of the Chabad Hasidic movement and illegally influencing the outcome of the 2013 municipal elections.

Ezra Gershi, mayor of the ultra-Orthodox town in the northern West Bank, was charged at the Kfar Saba Magistrate’s Court along with a senior Chabad official whose name is gagged by a court order.

The decision came after the state attorney rejected Gershi’s arguments in a recent hearing.

According to the charge sheet, Gershi made unlawful commitments to local Chabad members to secure their votes in the 2013 election in Emmanuel, which he eventually won.

A general view of the Emmanuel settlement in the West Bank. 12, April, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Gershi allegedly promised to employ Chabad members in paid positions in the local council, to fund the movement and provide benefits to top officials. He handed over a NIS 300,000 ($82,000) guarantee he would fulfill those commitments.

According to the indictment, the mayor kept that agreement secret and failed to disclose it as legally required.

With these actions, Gershi and the unnamed Chabad member “compromised the local council election’s integrity and unlawfully affected them,” the indictment added.

Residents of the settlement, population 3,000, have suspected Gershi of abusing his position. There has been a video circulating over the past year in Emmanuel of what appears to be the mayor turning off the street lamps via a switch inside his house before going to bed so that he ostensibly can get a better night’s rest.

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