The secretariat of United Torah Judaism’s Agudat Yisrael branch met Tuesday night at Agudat Yisrael’s Jerusalem office to approve the candidacy of Jerusalem deputy mayor Yossi Daitch in the October 30 mayoral election.
Sources close to Daitch denied a Channel 2 report that Daitch’s rabbi, Slonimer Rebbe Shmuel Berezovski, had forbidden him from running because the mayor must approve work done on the Sabbath.
The sources said the rebbe had indeed issued that ruling months ago but rescinded it after being told that final approval for work on Shabbat is given by the Supreme Court, that respected late Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv permitted Uri Lupoliansky to become mayor in 2003, and that Daitch’s candidacy would be the collective responsibility of all the Hassidic court leaders of Agudat Yisrael.
To that end, Daitch met Monday with Berezovski and traveled to the homes of other Hassidic leaders, including the rebbes of the Belz and Boyan sects and the head of the Agudat Yisrael Council of Torah Sages, Gerrer Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter.
Daitch was accompanied by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, powerful Litzman aide Moti Babchik and Porush’s assistant Binyamin Hacker.
Sources present in the meetings told haredi (ultra-Orthodox) websites that none of the rabbis had forbidden Daitch from running. Berezovski’s son said the Channel 2 report was “a lie.” Daitch’s assistant called it “miserable spin.”
Sources close to Daitch blamed the report on a haredi strategist who had worked for current Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and now advises Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is also running for mayor.
Once Daitch has approval from Agudat Yisrael’s rabbis, he will need an endorsement from UTJ’s Degel Hatorah branch, which is led by MK Moshe Gafni. There is said to be bad blood between Gafni and Daitch but not between Daitch and Gafni’s rabbis, so that approval is expected to be a formality.
In order to win the race, Daitch would also need an endorsement from the Sephardi haredi Shas party, whose leader Arye Deri is thought to favor Deputy Mayor Moshe Lion, who is Sephardi.
Daitch’s associates have said he believes he can win in one round of voting if he has the support of all the haredi rabbis and many candidates remain in the race. Coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud), who is not religious but is a personal friend of Daitch, is also expected to endorse him.
Daitch told The Jerusalem Post Monday that he would decide whether to run by the end of the week.
Besides Elkin and Leon, current candidates include MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), former deputy mayor Ofer Berkovich, haredi city councilman Chaim Epstein, and former city lawyers Yossi Havilio and Avi Salman.