Feb 3, 2013

Meeting the Candidate: Shimon Biton

I went to a meeting last night with another candidate for mayor of Bet Shemesh. This time it was Shimon Biton. Biton announced his candidacy a few months ago and is working on meeting people from all parts of the city.

Shimon Biton is a lawyer in Bet Shemesh, and he has spent his entire life here in Bet Shemesh. Even though the past few years he has lived in Efrat, as he says for familial reasons, he still spends close to 18 hours a day in Bet Shemesh as all his interests are here, especially his law practice. When I asked him about living in Efrat, he stressed that he has never changed his identity card to reflect his address in Efrat, but has always considered Bet Shemesh his home and always will consider it his home. The fact that he spends a few hours during the night outside of Bet Shemesh does not change that.

Some have asked me why support a non-haredi candidate. The issue is being presented as if anybody not-haredi in the position of mayor means he (or she, but there is currently no female candidate that I am aware of) is automatically ani-haredi, and supporting a non-haredi candidate is also motivated by anti-haredi concerns. I say that is not the case. While some people might be motivated by anti-haredi sentiments, or perhaps some candidates potentially might have those sentiments, I personally do not believe that to be the case. Not as a definite, at least.

I believe a person can run against a haredi candidate, or against a haredi mayor, and not run on an anti-haredi platform. In my opinion, the mayor of a mixed city does not automatically have to be haredi, nor does he have to be secular/traditional, nor does he have to be dati leumi. The ideal candidate is one who is open to all streams and communities, one who wishes to fulfill and satisfy, as much as possible, the needs of all communities within the city and most of all manage the city professionally while servicing our needs and growth and promoting the city, its good name and reputation.

Whenever I have met with political people or groups who wanted my efforts or support, I always carefully assess whether I can detect a sense of anti-haredi sentiments as part of the person's/group's motivation. When I do detect such a sentiment, I back out, and I have done so even when agreeing with many of the candidates positions on other issues. I will not support someone, not for mayor of Bet Shemesh or for any other political position, who I think might be motivated by anti-haredi sentiments. Whatever problems or disagreeing I might have with haredi politics and culture, I am connected to it, I did grow up within the community, and I remain a part of it, and no matter what I want changed in that society, I won't be part of an anti-haredi movement.

I will state right now that during my meeting with Shimon Biton last night, I did not sense any anti-haredi sentiments in his motivations (nor did I in my meeting with mayoral candidate Eli Cohen a couple of weeks ago).

Shimon Biton comes from a background in which he spent much of his life fighting corruption. He claims responsibility for bringing down Shalom Fedida for corruption (the mayor before Dani Vaknin) and it is well-known that he was single-handedly responsible for the indictment of Dani Vaknin for fraud (he had faked a college degree). He ran a local newspaper for a number of years - not the current type of newspaper that is funded by advertisements (often more ads than articles), but a newspaper that he funded out of his own pockets for the express purpose of exposing corruption.

His main focus seems to be ridding the Iryah of corruption. Those who spent so much time in the system are incapable of changing the system. Even if the current mayor is a nice guy, he is incapable of running the city in a non-corrupt way. I personally am not aware of any corruption the mayor is involved in, and I did not hear any from Biton, but the system is corrupt, the interests in the city are corrupt, and the current mayor is incapable of changing that, and that is why the city looks as run down as it does.

A lot was said, a lot was discussed. At the end of the day, he and the other candidates are going to have to figure out a process by which they will determine which of them is best for the city, which of them has the best chance in an election, and the others will have to respect that process and step down at some point. Biton expects to be announced as the candidate of the Likud, which will give him a political base from which to work off of and form coalitions and agreements with the other parties. he might be right, he might be wrong, I don't know. He did agree with me regarding my statement above and said he would step down if it were to be determined that a different candidate had the best chance, and as well if the Likud ends up not supporting him as its candidate.

I liked Shimon Biton. He spoke dugri, he was welcoming and open and he looks capable. I am still not yet  supporting anyone specific, because it is irrelevant until only one candidate is left standing, and it is not the people who will determine which of the candidates will be that one - it will be the political alliances that determine who the final candidate will be.

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1 comment:

  1. I think that anybody that claims he will be able to change the entirepolitical system and rid it of interests, is either naïve or living in. A world cut off from reality.
    Every government everywher has interests involved - that's politics. As long as you have politicians that are intereested in staying politicians for more than one term, they will be concerned that their constintuents are happy.
    Beit shemesh is complex. The relationships between the chareidim and everyone else is complex and the relationships inside the chareidim themselves are probably more complex.
    Running a city is not as simple as running a successful buisiness. (which neither Biton or abutbol has anyways) from the way you project this guy I doubt he will become a final candidate. He seems too staight for the system.


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