A would-be Jerusalem ‘unifier,’ Moshe Lion promises soccer fields for Arab kids

In 2013, critics of then-Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion, freshly relocated from metropolis of Givatayim close to Tel Aviv, raised an eyebrow on the educated accountant’s evident unfamiliarity with the town he was looking for to run. The marketing campaign of his rival, Nir Barkat, had known as out his inscrutable alliance with each the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and secularist Yisrael Beytenu, branding it a kombina, or backdoor wheeling and dealing. Moreover, Lion, on the time, was candid in admitting he had no ties to leaders in East Jerusalem.

Five years after he was defeated by Barkat, Lion is once more operating for mayor, this time with 5 years’ expertise on the town council below his belt, however much more competitors within the October 30 race than he encountered throughout his first bid.

Now, the self-declared “proud Jerusalemite” is presenting the adverse migration of younger residents because the foremost problem dealing with the capital, vowing to stem the tide “by force.” Underlining his “good relationships” with Arab municipal leaders, Lion is pledging to construct basketball courts and soccer fields for Palestinian kids in East Jerusalem and match its municipal budgets to the western, Jewish a part of the town.

In the phrases of Lion, who describes himself as a devoted adherent of a “live and let live” worldview, he’s the one one able to “unifying” the town’s various inhabitants of some 850,000.

In a current interview with The Famzn News in his residence within the metropolis’s upscale Rehavia neighborhood, a restrained Lion was dismissive of the formidable problem posed by an more and more crowded area of candidates for the mayoralty.

One of them is Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a Likud heavyweight backed by Barkat and seen as prone to safe a coveted endorsement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Elkin can be gunning for the Haredi vote, and, like Lion, holds a right-wing political worldview, is trendy Orthodox and isn’t initially from the town.

Likud party members Zeev Elkin (left) and former Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion on March 26, 2015, as Likud begins its coalition talks (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

“He’s not a man of action,” and has “no management experience,” stated Lion, a former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, of Elkin.

And what of the truth that the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood — which largely supported Lion in his 2013 race — might nicely area a candidate of its personal, possible council member Yossi Deitch, capitalizing on the break up secular and liberal Orthodox vote, unfold skinny between a handful of candidates? Lion pointed to previous assist he obtained from swaths of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood: “This is what was five years ago, and so too, it will be again.”

An impartial candidate, Lion has but to obtain any official political endorsements from greater up, not even from his longtime allies Aryeh Deri and Avigdor Liberman — the leaders of Shas and Yisrael Beytenu — nor from Netanyahu, his former boss, or Haredi factions in Jerusalem, although he confidently predicted he’ll finally clinch all of their assist. In 2013, he obtained the backing of a lot of the Haredi neighborhood within the metropolis, however Netanyahu kept away from endorsing him.

As Barkat seeks a seat within the Knesset and others — particularly Elkin and as of final week, Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem — hope to maneuver in the other way, Lion stated he has no political ambitions past the mayoralty.

“I don’t see it in any way as a political springboard. From here, I don’t intend to seek any other public role. If I wanted to do that I would have long been a minister in the government, and certainly a Knesset member. This is not an area that interests me. What interests me is mayor of Jerusalem, to invest as much as possible in the quality of life for the citizens,” he stated.

Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria on the Eli Horowitz Conference for Economy and Society, held by the Israel Institute of Democracy, in Jerusalem, on June 19, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Last Sunday, Azaria threw her hat within the ring, becoming a member of Elkin, Lion and Hitorerut candidate Ofer Berkovitch, who’s seen as a attainable darkish horse within the race, in addition to Yossi Havilio, a former municipal authorized adviser turned Barkat critic, the little-known Avi Salman and Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai (a resident of Mevasseret Zion, outdoors of Jerusalem), who just lately introduced in a radio interview that he would run for mayor however has not but formally declared his candidacy.

East Jerusalem: ‘A failure spanning decades’

Allied with right-wing politicians and a vocal proponent of a unified Jerusalem, Lion was insistent within the interview that funding within the metropolis’s long-neglected Arab neighborhoods was lengthy overdue.

“On the issue of East Jerusalem, it is a failure spanning decades that not enough money was invested in its infrastructure and we must eliminate these lags and build as much infrastructure as we can to match it to the west of the city,” stated Lion, who holds the neighborhoods portfolio within the metropolis council.

View of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, on December 14, 2017. (Dario Sanchez/Flash90)

The East Jerusalem neighborhoods have seen “improvement in past years, but certainly we need more and more budget funds so that the improvement will be significant, so that every school will have a basketball court, a soccer field, a place for the children to play,” he stated.

“Today, unfortunately, in most schools in East Jerusalem they don’t have a place for the children to play. It’s sad to see, and it must be dealt with.”

Would he enhance the East Jerusalem budgets significantly if he gained? “Obviously,” stated Lion.

Residents of East Jerusalem, making up an estimated 40 p.c of the town’s 865,000-strong inhabitants, have boycotted native elections for the previous 5 a long time. At current, though Sur Baher neighborhood official Ramadan Dabash has introduced that he’ll search a seat on the council, there isn’t a speak of an Arab mayoral candidate and no trace of an finish to the Arab boycott of municipal elections that has been in impact since Israel captured East Jerusalem within the 1967 battle.

Palestinian schoolgirls play after faculty within the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, March 30, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In the interview, Lion, a former head of the Jerusalem Development Authority, additionally pledged to construct employment facilities in East Jerusalem, opining that “the higher the economic level, the more terrorism levels drop.”

Wooing high-tech, younger Israelis to capital

His envisaged East Jerusalem employment hubs are a part of a bigger effort by Lion, who stated he was looking for to woo startups, firms and educational faculties with monetary and tax incentives to arrange store within the metropolis, turning the impoverished capital, over half of whose kids stay below the poverty line, into an “economic powerhouse.”

At the guts of his marketing campaign is stopping the “painful” relocation of some eight,000 Jerusalem residents outdoors the town annually, a lot of them younger Israelis who’re pushed to the suburbs by prohibitive housing costs within the capital or lured by extra profitable profession alternatives within the financial heart of the nation, the Gush Dan area.

“The mayor should have stood at the entrance or exit to the city and stopped it [the trend] by force. And I intend to do that,” stated Lion.

Young folks seen partying at a bar within the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on May eight, 2018. (Liba Farkash/Flash90)

As said by information by the Central Bureau of Statistic in 2016, the best focus of Jerusalem expats have moved to Beit Shemesh (10.eight%), adopted by Tel Aviv (eight.5%), Givat Ze’ev (5.9%), Beitar Illit (5.1%) and Bnei Brak (three.7%). Jerusalem nonetheless stays a younger metropolis, with half of its residents below the age of 24, in accordance with the CBS.

To fight the exodus, Lion proposed reeling in additional companies — significantly within the high-tech sector — with monetary and tax advantages, a lot of which, he notes, exist already although have but to make an impression. He additionally was looking for to make Jerusalem a higher heart of educational pupil life, drawing within the smaller educational faculties to relocate from throughout the nation, and even funding the primary 12 months of tuition. Jerusalem is at the moment residence to the Hebrew University, Bezalel Academy and a host of different smaller faculties.

“I need to convey these michlalot [private academic colleges] right here, to Jerusalem, so that the younger folks keep right here. For this, I’m prepared to fund the scholars for not less than one 12 months of examine in order that they keep right here in Jerusalem.”

Illustrative: Arab Israeli college students on the campus of Givat Ram at Hebrew University, on the primary day of the brand new educational 12 months, October 26, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

As for hovering housing costs within the capital and the snail’s tempo of building, Lion attributed the stalled constructing within the capital to metropolis corridor’s crimson tape, reasonably than to the reluctance to construct in sure areas over diplomatic considerations and worldwide strain.

“It’s true, it’s painful that we aren’t building in Givat Hamatos and aren’t building in Ramat Shlomo and these places, but these aren’t the reasons the young people are leaving,” he stated, referring to Jewish neighborhoods seen by the worldwide neighborhood as East Jerusalem.

“It’s true these housing units would have been helpful, but the real problem is within the [other] neighborhoods,” he stated, vowing to overtake the paperwork.

Citing a single city renewal constructing undertaking within the West Jerusalem neighborhood  of Kiryat Moshe that took 14 years to finish, even previous Barkat’s 10-year reign, he known as it a state of affairs that “demands explanation.”

Shabbat and the Temple Mount

On issues pertaining to the closure of companies on Shabbat, the Jewish day of relaxation, Lion stated he’ll persist with the established order — no to commerce, sure to leisure venues and eating places such because the First Station promenade.

He gained’t touch upon the Temple Mount, although he stated he visited the location as head of the Jerusalem Development Authority and located the expertise “interesting and moving,” or the difficulty of the egalitarian prayer plaza on the Western Wall.

“All of these issues of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, I leave to the government to decide,” he stated.

The Temple Mount homes the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and is taken into account Islam’s third holiest website. It is the holy place in Judaism, revered by Jews as the placement of the biblical Jewish temples.

Dubbing himself a “Hasid of ‘live and let live,’” Lion claimed to be the “unifier” of the fragmented Jerusalem voters, which although marred by occasional non secular and political tensions, he stated enjoys relative normalcy.

“In the end, we see everybody lives generally peacefully, side by side,” he stated.

Famzn News employees contributed to this report.

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