Netanyahu has yet to publicly endorse a candidate

Ze’ev Elkin announces he’ll run as Likud candidate for Jerusalem mayor

Minister for Jerusalem affairs and heritage throws his hat in the ring ahead of October elections, says he will give up ministerial position if elected

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Minister Ze'ev Elkin speaks during a ceremony honoring veterans of the Six Day War at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, as Israel marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war, on May 23, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Minister Ze'ev Elkin speaks during a ceremony honoring veterans of the Six Day War at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, as Israel marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war, on May 23, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin announced Thursday that he will run in the upcoming elections for mayorship of Jerusalem as the Likud party’s candidate.

“Dear residents of Jerusalem, I have just told the prime minister that I have decided to run as a candidate for Jerusalem mayor,” he said in a video posted to his social media accounts. “I ask for your trust and support in the elections.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment, and Elkin said Netanyahu was still finalizing his position. However, a Likud source told The Times of Israel that Netanyahu would be backing Elkin. The prime minister has been considering Elkin and Likud’s coalition chairman David Amsalem as candidates.

“The prime minister knew that I was going to make the announcement today,” Elkin said on Thursday evening. “I respect that he is taking another week or two to finalize his position.”

In recent weeks, Elkin has held talks with Netanyahu along with outgoing Mayor Nir Barkat about the bid, and was reportedly seeking to maintain his place in the high-level security cabinet even if he won the mayorship.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2L) seen with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (C) and Jerusalem Minister Zeev Elkin (L) during a special cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 2, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

His announcement suggested that he would not retain his ministerial position if elected in the October 30 elections.

“I am willing to give up the position of a senior minister and member of the security cabinet for the sake of Jerusalem because Jerusalem is a challenge at a national level of the utmost importance,” Elkin, who also serves as environmental protection minister, said.

The announcement comes two months after Barkat said that he will not be seeking a third term and will instead run for Knesset on the Likud party ticket

Elkin is close to the Haredi politicians who could turn out the vote in the city, and lived for many years in the capital before relocating to the settlement of Kfar Eldad to its southeast. He has also been a key figure in the increase of state funding for the cash-strapped capital as head of the Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry in recent years.

Former Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion, seen at a press conference in Jerusalem, in July (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Elkin’s candidacy means 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 Likud source said.

Two ultra-Orthodox city politicians have signaled their interest in running, hoping to capitalize on the 32 percent of the city’s population that identifies as Haredi — and whose voter share is even higher since the city’s Arab residents generally boycott the municipal vote.

Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitsch of the United Torah Judaism faction is seen as the leading Haredi candidate, alongside fellow party member Yitzhak Pindrus, also a deputy mayor.

Elkin is not the only MK 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 in the coming weeks.

Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai attends a Knesset committee meeting, on November 13, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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.

Another possible candidate is Kulanu party MK Rachel Azaria, who served as deputy mayor before entering the Knesset in 2015.

There are also several secular candidates vying for the support of the younger generations, including 34-year-old Ofer Berkowitz, head of the Hitorerut faction, who enjoys the support of some of the city’s more liberal religious residents and is considered by many as a potential future mayor — even if not this time around.

Another contender, Yossi Havilio, a former municipal legal adviser turned Barkat critic, appeals mainly to the secular population.

Little-known Avi Salman has also announced he will run on a secular ticket.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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