The mayor of Tiberias, an outspoken opponent of ultra-Orthodox influence in government, failed to pass a budget for the municipality on Tuesday night. As a result, he and the city council members will likely be fired from their positions by the interior ministry.
In his third time at bat, Ron Cobi won six votes for his proposed budget, with nine council members voting against the motion.
In two weeks, a hearing will be held for the mayor at the Interior Ministry, and a decision will be passed on whether to set up an ad hoc committee to replace the council, and whether the mayor himself will be replaced, according to a report in Ynet news.
Cobi had been elected in November 2018 after pitching himself as a candidate who would revive Tiberias’s tourism industry and “prevent the Haredization” of the city, which has seen an influx of ultra-Orthodox residents who are looking for cheaper housing beyond Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and other cities.
Since the election, he clashed with the city’s ultra-Orthodox population as he pushed to open businesses, public transportation and entertainment venues on Shabbat. His efforts opposing the ultra-Orthodox earned him national media attention.
He was unable to form a governing coalition for the city and struggled to pass legislation, however.
Opposition party members in the city council, headed by former mayor Yossi Ben David, castigated Cobi at Tuesday’s meeting, charging that the municipal government was paralyzed. A representative of the interior ministry attended the meeting, Ynet reported.
Cobi had announced last week that he would run for the Knesset in the September 17 elections at the head of a right-wing secular slate.
The interior ministry can give the council an extension of up to three months to pass its budget, but in a letter last month an interior ministry representative said that the body was unlikely to do so, except in exceptional circumstances.
As a champion in the struggle against ultra-Orthodox in government, Cobi had often been at odds with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, who will now decide whether Cobi will be booted from office.
The interior ministry said that decisions regarding officials who failed to pass their budgets would be dealt with in a practical manner, regardless of their political affiliations.