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Politricks in the Jerusalem mayoral raceby michael • October 27 2008
As if the two-year waking nightmare of election season in America isn't enough, it's almost time to head to the polls in Jerusalem to choose our fair city's next mayor. There's an upside and a downside to this: the completely ineffectual Lupolianski is on the way out, and only time will tell what kind of improvement our fair city will see under his successor. But in the meantime, we can busy ourselves by having a closer look at the manner in which the various leading candidates are positioning themselves to the public. With prominent outdoor political advertisements occupying much of Jerusalem's visible surface area nowadays, we have little choice but to address the oddities therein.
Nir Barkat, if his ads are taken at face value, has missed the election memo and unilaterally declared himself mayor. It doesn't say "Nir Barkat for Mayor," it just says "Nir Barkat. Mayor." This is actually a dangerous tactic: Israeli voters have notoriously short memories (hello soon-to-be-PM Bibi!), and thus might assume that Barkat is already the mayor, and thus responsible for all the city's recent shortcomings. Bad mojo. Although at least the firmly secular Barkat has hit on a brilliant plan to court the religious vote....
Speaking of the religious vote, former deputy mayor Meir Porush, known mostly for single-minded championing of ultra-Orthodox interests during his tenure in the Knesset, is employing a novel tactic to connect with Jerusalem's three remaining secular voters: reinventing himself as a South Park-styled cartoon ultra-Orthodox Santa Claus. "You'll love him," goes the slogan - so much, presumably, that you won't miss meat on pizza, bacon, your gay friends, seeing women's hair, and mixed dancing. And as far as campaigns hiding their commitment to the advancement of divisive fundamentalist religious ideals by presenting their candidate as a lovable cartoon character, well, hey, it's working for Sarah Palin.
It's also working for dovish, secular lefty party Meretz, which has been illustrating its blunt "Free or ultra-Orthodox?" rhetoric with pictures of candidate Yosef "Pepe" Alalu, whose abundant beard should serve to lull ultra-Orthodox voters into a false sense of complacency as Alalu puts into effect his Meretz-y plan to sell the Temple Mount to Dubai and make every Jerusalem child ride on the leather float during the Gay Pride Parade.
Billionaire Russian playboy and arms dealer Arcadi Gaydamak has capped his recent efforts to buy his way into the hearts of the Israeli people with a Jerusalem mayoral campaign. His ads are the most direct: "Not talking, doing." This may be a sly reference to Gaydamak's extremely poor Hebrew language skills, although then again, irony has never been the strongest suit of billionaire playboys, politicians or Israelis. Gaydamak also demonstrated in a recent Jerusalem Post interview that he hasn't been spending much time listening during his strict program of not talking - he drew a complete blank when asked about the Museum of Tolerance controversy and the Safdie Plan, two of the past few years' most highly-debated local issues.
Aren't you pumped up now? Don't forget to vote on November 11!
Jerusalemite's coverage of the mayoral elections shall return.
Photos of ads for the verious Jerusalem mayoral candidates by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.
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