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Sep 9, 2013

Shalom Lerner on Shalom Lerner's resignation from Bet Shemesh politics

Last week, right before Rosh Hashana, Shalom Lerner announced his resignation from politics. he announced he would continue supporting Eli Cohen for mayor of Bet Shemesh, but would not be running for a seat on the City Council. After the elections he would continue to assist the community in whatever way possible but from outside the political sphere, and would go back to focusing on his private business.

Immediately Eli Cohen's opponents spoke about how nasty Eli Cohen is and used this as an example of backstabbing and Cohen must have pushed Lerner out, and look how dirty Cohen is, etc. At the same time, while Greenberg and Veiner were fighting over the deputy mayorship for UTJ and other senior positions, even the Haredi websites spoke about a deal between Porush and Greenberg to get rid of Veiner in exchange for Degel supporting Porush's son in Elad as mayor, and hence we had the sudden primaries which was designed to get rid of Dovid Veiner - and all that time not a single word in the Haredi press or from local politicians and askanim about any dirty moves to get rid of someone just for a job and salary.

I personally have no problem with it. That is politics. But for some people who look to call every move by the other to be dirty and despicable, regardless of whether it actually was or was not, when their own guy does the same thing, he should not get a pass.

Lerner resigned. He spoke about the joint party list between the Bet Shemesh Chozeret and Habayit Hayehudi parties and he felt there was not enough room for everyone so he decided to leave. The Haredi media, especially the local Chadash newspaper, interviewed Lerner and placed glaring headlines about backstabbing and knives drawn, despite Lerner not saying a word about that.

Before I get back to that, I want to point out the most noteworthy parts of the interview in Chadash:

Most poignant point:
Question: Abutbol has promised to concentrate on enhancing the beauty of the city. He does not convince you?
Lerner: No, for a simple reason. If he will be elected, the city will go bankrupt in two years, and then nothing will function.

Funniest point:
Question: He has received the Award for Proper Administration three years running. That does not indicate a coming bankruptcy..
Lerner: I would fire whoever gives out that award.
Question: You would fire the Ministers of Finance and Interior?
Lerner; Nu, that is what I said  - both have been replaced - Steinitz for Lapid and Yishai For Saar.

In Kikar they stuck more to what Lerner actually said (which Lerner himself confirmed, and added that Chadash was inaccurate and made their own assumptions). His main point is that Abutbol is a fine person and a good Jew, but he manages the city poorly. At the beginning of his term he embraced all the haredi including the extremists, instead of embracing the general population and Dati Leumi.

I would add for clarification, that the issue is not that he embraced Haredim - as that was to be expected, but his embracing the extremists specifically is what pushed him away from embracing everyone else. Especially after he ran a campaign where he hardly mentioned anything haredi and ran on a Zionist bloc platform of helping everyone.

Lerner than says the second problem is that Abutbol managed the city unprofessionally. The city is dirty and tens of millions of shekels are wasted. All residents know and feel that the city is not functioning the way it should.

interestingly, at the end of the Kikar article they talk to a Haredi politician (unnamed) who seems to think they have the election wrapped up already. They say Abutbol is connected to the people and knows exactly what is going on and that they will vote for him, and that there is therefore no need for commissioning polls... They also throw out percentages that do not make sense, leading me to believe Kikar made a mistake - the city is not 58% haredi under anybody's numbers. The highest percentage I ever saw until this article is that the Haredim make up 47% or so of the city. Either Kikar got the numbers wrong, or the person quoted is living an illusion.

Back to Shalom Lerner.. I was curious about the indication and assumptions being made about backstabbing, about him being pushed out by Eli Cohen, about a dirty system behind the scenes. I am friends with him and he has always spoken open and straight with me, so I do not doubt his answer. Lerner told me that there was no backstabbing and he was not pushed out. He said he gave up his spot on the list  because he believes unity is essential. He thinks the joint list between Habayit Hayehudi and Bet Shemesh Chozeret (Eli Cohen's party) is good and advances unity, and he knows that his withdrawing advances unity because it will ease the process of the joining of the lists, as the new people want the positions and he is happy clearing out to make way for them. Lerner is also happy that Rav Boaz Mori has joined politics as the head of the local Habayit Hayehudi list and thinks it will be great for the city.

So, according to Lerner the drama is a figment of some people's imagination  - he resigned because he wanted to and thought it would be helpful, not because he was  pushed out.

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