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Both Jerusalem mayoral candidates hoping for Netanyahu endorsement

Likud officials said they expected Netanyahu to back Lion, who was his director-general in the Prime Minister’s Office during Netanyahu’s first term.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to endorse a candidate in the November 13 runoff race for mayor of Jerusalem this week, and both Moshe Lion and Ofer Berkovitch’s associates expressed hope Saturday night that their candidate would receive the backing of the prime minister.

Netanyahu supported Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin in the first round of voting, but he finished a distant third in last Tuesday’s election. Netanyahu said Thursday that he had already decided whom to back but would not yet reveal his decision.
Likud officials said they expected Netanyahu to back Lion, who was his director-general in the Prime Minister’s Office during Netanyahu’s first term. Lion left on good terms.

Lion was also credited with rehabilitating the Likud as director-general of the party following its loss in the 1992 election. He is still the accountant of the party, though he is no longer a Likud member.

But Berkovitch’s associates said they would be surprised if Netanyahu endorses Lion, because Lion’s supporters humiliated Netanyahu when they heckled him when he toured Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market with Elkin 10 days ago.

Netanyahu’s influential son and unofficial adviser, Yair Netanyahu, liked several of Berkovitch’s posts on Facebook, including one that was critical of Elkin, leading to speculation that he voted for Berkovitch.

Berkovitch received a boost last week when Matan Peleg, director-general of the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu, denied accusations that Berkovitch is tied to the left-wing umbrella New Israel Fund, which Im Tirtzu closely monitors.Channel 2 reported Saturday night that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman met Friday with Agudat Yisrael leaders Ya’acov Litzman and Meir Porush, in an effort to persuade them to endorse Lion. Agudat Yisrael backed fourth-place finisher Yossi Daitch in the first round of voting.

Liberman and Litzman’s offices denied any connection between the endorsement and the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment bill, which must be passed into law by a Supreme Court-imposed deadline of December 2.
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