Ultra-Orthodox parties to head Jerusalem’s most powerful municipal committees

Reelected mayor Moshe Lion forms coalition comprising entire city council, where Haredim hold unprecedented majority; secularist Havilio gets compromise seat on planning committee

File - Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion casts his vote at a polling station in Jerusalem, during the municipal elections on February 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File - Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion casts his vote at a polling station in Jerusalem, during the municipal elections on February 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, who in February handily won a second term, signed coalition agreements with every faction in the city council on Tuesday, meaning he will face no opposition in the municipal legislature.

“For the first time since Teddy Kollek’s days as mayor, a wall-to-wall coalition was formed in Jerusalem,” Lion told the Haaretz newspaper, referring to the legendary Jerusalem politician whose tenure as mayor ended in 1993 after nearly four decades.

Shas and Degel HaTorah, the two largest ultra-Orthodox municipal factions, were given control over the municipality’s most powerful committees, including those on finance and property taxes. They also retained control of the local planning and building committee, which had emerged as a sticking point in the coalition negotiations.

The city’s three ultra-Orthodox parties — the Sephardic Shas, Hasidic Agudat Yisrael, and non-Hasidic Degel HaTorah — collectively won 16 of the city council’s 31 seats in the February election, giving them an unprecedented majority.

Haaretz reported that early in the coalition talks it had emerged that the ultra-Orthodox factions would be awarded all three of Jerusalem’s seats on the regional building and planning committee, creating tensions with representatives of other populations.

The impasse was solved by granting one of the seats on the regional committee to Yosi Havilio, who lodged a long-shot challenge to Lion’s mayoralty with the backing of a left-leaning secularist alliance. Havilio will hold the seat for only half of the coming term.

Havilio, a scion of an eminent Jerusalem family and a former municipal attorney general, was also reappointed a deputy mayor, a position he has held since 2021.

File – Yosi Havilio in Jerusalem on November 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Adir Schwartz, head of the right-leaning secularist Hitorerut faction, was also made a deputy mayor. The two secularist parties were awarded the culture, business, and innovation portfolios.

Hagit Moshe, who heads the local branch of the Religious Zionism National Religious party, will retain control of the city’s education portfolio and was also reappointed a deputy mayor.

Another religious Zionist party, the anti-LGBT Noam, received the post of acting representative on the local subcommittee for building and planning, in which operations of the regular committee are sometimes fast-tracked.

The post will be held by Eldad Rabinowitz, a lawyer for the right-wing Ateret Cohanim fund, which aims to settle Jews in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem neighborhoods. According to Haaretz, Rabinowitz is expected to face a conflict of interests in his new role.

East Jerusalem has been integrated into the Jerusalem municipality since 1967’s Six Day War, but the enclave’s Palestinian residents, who make up nearly 40% of the entire city’s population, regularly boycott the municipal election, and are not represented on the city council.

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