Two senior Likud lawmakers are eyeing the position of Jerusalem mayor, and reportedly want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to decide which of them should run in the elections in October to avoid a clash over the issue.
Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin and coalition whip David Amsalem want Netanyahu and the Likud municipal committee to pick one of them to be the party’s candidate for mayor, Haaretz reported on Tuesday, citing senior Likud sources.
Elkin has held talks recently with Netanyahu along with outgoing Mayor Nir Barkat and coalition heads, and is reportedly seeking to maintain his seat in the Knesset and his place at the high-level security cabinet even if he wins the mayorship.
The sources noted that Deputy Mayor Moshe Lion, an independent candidate who had support from part of Likud’s Jerusalem branch in the previous mayoral election, will not get the same backing this time.
The Hadrei Haredim ultra-Orthodox news site reported Monday that Amsalem had moved his address from Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem in preparation for a possible campaign. Amsalem has previous experience as a senior employee at the Jerusalem municipality, where he was in charge of improving the city landscape. In the last municipal elections, he campaigned on Lion’s ticket.
Amsalem took over as coalition chairman in December after the previous whip, MK David Bitan, resigned when it emerged he was at the center of a wide-ranging bribery investigation by police.
Elkin and Amsalem are not the only MKs who are looking to switch from the Knesset to Jerusalem city hall. Zionist Union lawmaker Nachman Shai is also reportedly set to announce his candidacy for the mayoral race later this year.
The opposition MK, who is a deputy Knesset speaker and former IDF spokesman, is moving his residency from the nearby Mevasseret Zion to Jerusalem in order to be eligible to run in the October race, Hadashot TV news reported.
The reports come weeks after Barkat announced he would not be seeking a third term and confirmed rumors he would run for the Knesset on the Likud party ticket.
Another possible candidate is Kulanu party MK Rachel Azaria, who served as deputy mayor before entering the Knesset in 2015.
Haaretz reported Tuesday that Azaria is waiting to see who else will be in the race before making a decision on whether to run.