Final candidate lists were filed during Chol Hamoed Succos for the upcoming municipal elections, held once in five years. Mayors and city councils are elected all over Israel. Degel Hatorah filed lists of candidates in over 50 locales. For the first time in many years there are several areas in which they filed a list independent of Agudath Yisroel, most notably in Jerusalem, Haifa and Elad.
MK Rabbi Gafni: There are places that we are going together (with Aguda) such as Beit Shemesh and Bnei Brak and many other places all over the country. There are places where we are running on our own, and that is because it was necessary. In Jerusalem the division (of council seats) was grossly disproportionate, and we heard this also from our constituents. We had not other way to redress this problem. Let me say that I hope that the election campaign will be conducted in a civilized manner and that everyone will work to enlarge the overall chareidi representation on the City Council.
It was also necessary in Haifa, even though we did everything we could to avoid this. The sitting mayor attacked everything that is holy and dear to the chareidi community. The decision of our partners to support him, and to do this very loudly, brought us to propose compromises, but Aguda rejected these and announced with great fanfare their support for this man who has made terrible problems for the chareidi community and did not respect the sanctity of Shabbos. As a chareidi party we had no choice but to go on our own. But we should stress that our argument is with the mayor and not with other parties.
MK Rabbi Maklev: It is important to note that the unifying factors are much greater than the divisions.
Degel Hatorah always considers the local issues to be paramount in the municipal elections. Some other parties evaluate the local elections mainly for how they impact the national party. We try to give each place the best that we can for their local issues. We minimize the cross-municipal issues.
MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher: In Jerusalem the chareidi candidate (Rabbi Yossi Deitch) is a worthy candidate whichever way you look at it, and he has done much for the entire chareidi community. The discussion is about other principles and not mainly the qualifications of the candidate. There are risks in having a chareidi mayor at the head of Jerusalem. The questions are also about his management after the elections, where Jerusalem is the focus of so much attention the worry is that various politicians or others will try to make life difficult for a chareidi mayor.
Rabbi Menachem Shapira: It is an open secret that the voters of Degel Hatorah have been shortchanged for years at the municipal level, as a result of the fact that the number of representatives that they received (3 out of 8) did not reflect their numbers and relative strength in the chareidi community of Jerusalem. There is no doubt that in the upcoming elections Degel Hatorah will increase its strength. We hope that Aguda will also bring out all its voters so that the overall strength of the chareidim in Jerusalem will increase so that we will be able to do more in the future.