Report: Barkat Convinced Chaim Epstein to Stay in Race


barkatYerushalayim – Newly reelected mayor of the Ihr Hakodesh, Nir Barkat, may have won thanks to a deal with Chaim Epstein, the candidate for the Bnei Torah party.

Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker reports that Barkat’s staff reportedly struck a deal with Epstein under which the latter would remain in the race despite his small chances of winning. The hope was that Epstein would win votes from chareidi and religious residents of Yerushalayim who would otherwise have voted for his front-running challenger, Moshe Leon.

In exchange, Epstein was told that he would be the first invited into Barkat’s coalition, and would be appointed as deputy mayor and offered a salary.

That seems to be exactly what happened.

Arutz Sheva reports that sources close to Barkat who spoke to Drucker confirmed that Epstein will be joining Barkat’s coalition, and said he will also be joining a special city committee that will advise Barkat regarding the future of Yerushalayim, and specifically, projects that are important to the city’s chareidi-religious population.

The elections results in Jerusalem were fairly close, with Barkat winning by 12,000 votes, which gave him a 6% lead over Leon.

Barkat, a successful former high-tech entrepreneur, was first elected in 2008.

Leon, a former director of the prime minister’s office who until recently lived in Givatayim, was backed by Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Shas chairman Aryeh Deri.

Low turnout was thought to favor the religious Leon, as just 36 percent of Yerushalmim voted, compared to a 43 percent turnout nationwide, but in the end, the candidacy of Epstein plus the lack of support of Belz and Ger did him in. Leon was relying on mass support from the chareidi sector, but on Monday, Belz said it would not back Lion, and Deri’s attempt to meet with the Belzer Rebbe was rejected. Ger was also not officially backing Leon, and the Gerer Rebbe said his Chassidim were free to vote as they wish. It was the perfect combination to clear the path for a Barkat victory.

{ Israel News Bureau}