Runoffs, revolutions and rage: 9 things to know for October 31
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Israel media review

Runoffs, revolutions and rage: 9 things to know for October 31

Jerusalem heads to a second round, Haifa becomes first major city to elect a female head and Tel Aviv sticks with a ‘dictator’; plus Trump’s Israeli in Pittsburgh sparks questions

An Israeli man hangs campaign posters for local elections in the center of Jerusalem on October 30, 2018. (THOMAS COEX / AFP)
An Israeli man hangs campaign posters for local elections in the center of Jerusalem on October 30, 2018. (THOMAS COEX / AFP)

1. Someone to runoff with: Tuesday’s municipal election was an unsurprising mix of surprises, upsets, failed insurgencies and expected results.

  • The biggest shock in the most closely watched race was in Jerusalem, where upstart activist Ofer Berkovitch is headed to a second round with Moshe Lion. While nobody thought any candidate would win the city outright, most thought Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who had the highest profile and the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was the most likely to advance to the runoff ballot.
  • Instead Elkin managed just around 20 percent of the votes (with many still to be counted) in a tight and meaningless race for third place against black horse and black hat candidate Yossi Deitch.
  • ToI’s Raoul Wootliff notes that Elkin’s bid was initially opposed by Netanyahu and seen as a way to escape the premier’s shadow, which can be a dangerous place for anyone the PM sees as a potential rival. Elkin “will now have to swallow his [dissatisfaction] as he returns to his regular ministerial and Knesset work.”
  • Yedioth writes that Elkin seemingly knew something was up, and appeared the most “subdued” throughout the day. “He tried to keep it from being seen in the media and mostly went around neighborhoods where he is supported — Pisgat Ze’ev, Har Homa and Gilo,” the paper writes, listing three Jewish East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
  • Haaretz notes that ballot boxes in the ultra-Orthodox parts of the city saw much higher turnout than other neighborhoods, which not only helped Lion (who had the backing of a large chunk of the Haredi public) but also means that the city council’s 31 seats will be made up of at least half ultra-Orthodox or nationalist Haredi factions, though no single party has more seats than Berkovitch’s Hitorerut faction.
  • While Lion has connections in high places to rely on — what Israelis might call protexia — Berkovitch, 35, may win because he is exactly the opposite.
  • One profile of him in Walla news calls him a “youth” and repeatedly notes that he’s a relative unknown (despite being on the city council for years): “It’s still not clear how much the city’s residents know about Berkovitch, but as one remarked at a polling station, she knows enough to prefer him over the others.”

2. Revolution in Haifa: Haifa’s Einat Kalisch Rotem, another political neophyte, also turned heads and made history easily defeating Yona Yahav to become the first woman in the history of the state to lead a major city.

  • The results, which were reported almost right after polls closed thanks to a Radio Haifa exit poll — apparently the only exit poll in the country — were quickly heralded as a “revolution” by several media outlets.
  • The Ynet news website described her as an “architect with a black belt.”
  • “She was totally unknown on a national level just a few weeks ago, and a few days ago her candidacy was voided [it was later overturned],” the site writes, noting her unlikely journey to head the country’s third-largest city.

3. No Instush for Huldai: Tel Aviv’s Asaf Zamir failed to repeat the magic, being defeated by Ron Huldai, who will now take a fifth term at the helm of the White City.

  • Time Out Tel Aviv notes that Huldai avoided the media all Tuesday, except for a single phone interview to Hadashot news.
  • Speaking to the same network on Wednesday morning, though, he attacked his one-time rival and deputy Zamir, saying “I’m a professional, I don’t live on Instush [apparently what the cool kids call Instagram] or from big money, but in reality.”
  • Asked if he’ll let Zamir stay on as his deputy, he says he’s disappointed in the whippersnapper but leaves room open for them to continue working together. “They call me the dictator, because I let everyone in my coalition.”

4. Think elections are over? Think again: Channel 10 news’s Akiva Novick writes that while many Israelis may be relieved that the campaigns are over so their phones can stop buzzing with spam messages, pretty soon they’ll be right back in the thick of it with Knesset elections. And now that the national politicians are done pushing to put their people in power around the country, it will be time for a little payback.

  • “The deal is simple: Anyone who was elected with the help of rallies or support videos will have to write a check for the national elections,” he writes.

5. Blood on the highway: While the elections were big news, the death of a whole family killed while out trying to enjoy the day off (thanks to the elections) led the news agenda for much of Tuesday and in Wednesday’s print press.

  • The crash that claimed the Atar family, both parents and all six kids, occurred on Route 90, a winding desert road that skirts the Dead Sea, and it’s far from the first collision to claim multiple lives on the highway. Just two weeks ago, another head-on collision in the same area killed two parents and their baby.
  • The driver of the second car has been arrested and is suspected of having been under the influence of drugs, according to various media reports on Wednesday.
  • But road safety activist Erez Kita of the Or Yarok organization says in a column in Israel Hayom that human error is only part of the story, noting that the road has claimed 128 lives in just the last decade.
  • “Man is just flesh and blood, and makes mistakes, but here the infrastructure helps along the human factor and absorbs most of the damage,” he writes. “Fixing the infrastructure on the bloodiest parts of the road could prevent many crashes and save lives of many Israelis, even if they err.”

6. Protesting Trump: Reporting from Pittsburgh, where a protest against a visit by US President Donald Trump appeared to be a bigger story than his trip itself, ToI’s Amanda Borschel Dan writes that while the crowd was ethnically and religiously diverse, they were all united by opposition to the president.

  • While Fox News and other right-wing outlets made unfounded attempts to dismiss the protests as tied to Trump somehow doing something that was prohibited in some way by the Jewish religion during or after a funeral, Borschel Dan writes that some people even came straight from the first funerals to the protest.
  • One such person, lawyer civil rights lawyer Steven Pincus, tells ToI that he felt moved to go to the protest because “Trump contributes to the atmosphere that divides us.”

7. What’s Dermer doing there? Trump was accompanied on the visit by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared, who are both Jewish, but the AP reports that all Republican leaders invited to tag along turned down the invite, as did Pittsburgh’s mayor and Pennsylvania’s governor.

  • Thus Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer was somehow inserted into the trip, leaving some scratching their heads.
  • “I find it offensive and bizarre that this was choreographed so that the Israeli Ambassador is the one who greeted the President first at the Tree of Life synagogue. The Prez is not visiting Israel,” Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo writes on Twitter.

8. What does the Foxman say: Dermer recently defended Trump by saying that it’s unfair to blame him for the Pittsburgh massacre, which is a bit of a straw man argument, since few are saying that he’s an anti-Semite, but more that he has allowed anti-Semites to run amok with his words and actions, or lack thereof.

  • Speaking to ToI editor David Horovitz, former ADL head Abraham Foxman says he’s shocked by the number of people killed in Pittsburgh, but not surprised, given the level of anti-Semitism in the US, and while he doesn’t blame Trump, he recognizes that the president is a big part of the problem, referencing the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last year.
  • “He didn’t create them. He didn’t write their script. He didn’t give them the brown shirts. But he emboldened them. He gave them the chutzpah, that it’s OK. And when he had an opportunity to put it down, he didn’t. I consider that a greater sin,” Foxman says.
  • Read the whole bleak interview here.

9. Envoys for Trump: Dermer wasn’t the only one rushing to defend Trump, with Minister Naftali Bennett, envoy Dani Dayan and others saying basically the same thing.

  • In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev writes that Dermer and Dayan’s responses both included attacking leftist rhetoric, doing the victims and American Jewry a disservice at the behest of Netanyahu.
  • “Rather than using the shock and grief that has gripped American Jewry since the attack to mend fences and renew dialogue, Dermer and Dayan chose to add egregious insult to the critical injury suffered on Saturday by American Jewry,” he writes.
  • “Both are intelligent men and must surely realize their statements could enrage many American Jews, in their time of anguish and pain.”
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