A candidate running for mayor of Tiberias told a Knesset committee on Monday that she has been offered sweetheart jobs in exchange for quitting the race, seemingly to boost a rival’s chances.
Shani Illouz, a member of the Likud, spoke at the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee, which is drafting a bill that would affect eligibility for Tiberias’s municipal race, saying she had been pressured to back down by members of the party. Refusing to disclose names, Illouz said three Likud members offered her several positions in return for her withdrawal.
A controversial Likud-backed bill would enable an acting mayor to run in municipal elections without the one-term cooling-off period that is currently required by law. The bill is seen as tailored to aid Tiberias Acting Mayor Boaz Yosef, who would otherwise be barred from the upcoming contest.
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 an associate of Shas leader Deri, who is a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The cooling-off period was implemented with the intention of reducing the advantage that an acting mayor would have as an incumbent, based on the idea that it is undeserved because acting mayors are appointed, not elected.
“I am not corrupt,” Illouz told the committee. “I did not accept any offer… You will not turn me into a liar!”
“No one made offers to you,” Yosef shot back at Illouz during the meeting.
In a letter to the Knesset legal counsel, several members of the opposition called for the cessation of the committee deliberations on the law until the allegations were investigated.
“These are acts of bribery and corruption,” the letter read.
Yaakov Asher, chairman of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, reportedly told Illouz to file a complaint with the police.
The Movement for Quality Government, an NGO that monitors good governance, called for a police investigation into Illouz’s allegations.
“There is grave concern of criminal intervention in the legislation process,” it posted on its Facebook page.
Members of Likud have also voiced their dismay with the vote. MK Tally Gotliv criticized fellow party member MK Amit Halevi, who sponsored the bill, saying it “smelled.”
The bill is part of a blitz of contentious legislation accompanying the government-backed judicial overhaul that has sparked widespread unrest in Israel.
Municipal elections are slated for October 31.