Beit Shemesh: The Third Option

The use of criminal, illegal and immoral tactics by the 'winning' Moshe Abutbol campaign in Bet Shemesh, has led to various practical options to resolve the situation.

Option One is to re-run the disputed election. 

I understand there are precedents for this in Israel, and the logistics do not need to be complicated. There is already a system for 2nd round elections in the case that no candidate for mayor obtains more than 40% of the vote. These 2nd round municipal elections will all be taking place around the country on 5th November.

So, in principle, adding Beit Shemesh to that list of second-round municipal elections on 5th November is feasible.

A problem is finding a mechanism which would force this election to be re-run.

I cannot see Moshe Abutbol voluntarily agreeing to a new election.

The Supreme Court would need to rule - and that would require legal proof of the nature and scale of the fraud. The Supreme Court cannot judge immorality - which may stink, but is not a factor in law.

Another problem is that, even in a second round election, the results will likely be a similarly bitter 50/50 split of the population, and whoever wins that election will also not have a popular legitimacy to rule the other 50%. The division in the city will remain, even if another mayor wins.

Option Two is to physically split Bet Shemesh

Gidon Saar, Minister of the Interior, is due to evaluate dusted-off plans to split the city of Beit Shemesh into hareidi and non-hareidi cantons.

There would be two Town Councils - Beit Shemesh would have one, and Ramat Beit Shemesh another. Maps have been widely publicised in the press showing the possible split-up of the territories.

People point to Modein and Modein Ilit (Kireat Sefer) as a precedent.

To me, this looks like a logistical and bureaucratic nightmare - in the case of Beit Shemesh which, unlike Modein/Modein Ilit, is a 50 year old town. It would seem to be very complicated, expensive and the legalities would likely take years.

Option Three - Splitting The City By Time, Not Geography

I therefore propose a third solution to the current messy situation.

The precedent is the Shamir/Peres Government between 1984-88. Due to inconclusive election results in 1984, the two opposing leaders agreed to be prime minister for two years each. (More info here)

I suggest an agreement between Moshe Abutbol and Eli Cohen to split the term of office, so that each becomes mayor for 2.5 years. For the other 2.5 years they would each be a deputy mayor.

This will be seen by (close to) 100% of the population to be reasonable and fair, a mature approach to resolving differences, and should buy the city 5 years of fully functioning calm.

This does not require complex and costly logistics.

It is achievable by the two men simply signing an agreement, and moving on.

Like the other two options, Moshe Abutbul of course will not voluntarily do this. After all, he's sitting in power.

All three options require it being untenable for Moshe Abutbol to simply hold onto his mayor's seat.

There needs to be huge public pressure - demonstrations, effective PR and media for the cause, utilising every legal recourse and civil disruption. (Recall Orot Banot?)

IMHO - the end result should be a time-split between the two candidates.

The Beit Shemesh Autumn?  


  1. Had Eli Cohen won by a thousand votes, would he magmoniously offer to split the mayorship.

    I didn't think so.

  2. David my dear friend.
    Your ideas are very good, I personally go for option one, but I dont get to decide!!
    Your comparison to Modiin and Modiin Illit, is, however invalid.
    Modiin was a town planned in the 1980s, and sold to developers in the early 90s... we personally bought our first house on the plans from developers in 1994, and moved in in 1996. At that time there was a hareidi town also being built called Kiryat Sefer. When we lived in Modiin it was still called Kiryat Sefer, and during our first few years in Modiin young hareidim from Kiryat Sefer used to "sneak in" to Modiin in "the dead of night" to protest the developments in land which they claimed had once held graves...

    The name Modiin Illit was conjured up a few years later... (for whatever reason I am still to understand) but there is no connection between the two towns. Modiin is Modiin, and Kiryat Sefer is Kiryat Sefer. In fact I have just looked it up on Google Maps now, they are 10 km apart a driving time of 18 minutes.
    Just saying!
    Best, your old pal, Liz

  3. There is a fourth much more plausible option that should appease everyone... If Mr. Abutbul really wants everyone involved and cares about everyone bring eli in as sgan ..let him be 2nd in command..assistant mayor or whatever you want to call it.... By doing this everyone will have a say and a phone number to call when there is an issue..

  4. Modi'in was built quite a few years after Modi'in Illit. They were never the same municipality. In fact, they don't even adjoin each other. There is significant territory of the Binyamin Regional Council between them. Remember that until about 10 years ago, Modi'in Illit was not called that, but its official name was Kiryat Sefer. The Interior Ministry changed it so that it could be more in line with Betar Illit.
    Rather, if you want to use Modi'in as an example, it works the other way. It is one of the few cases where municipalities actually merged when the idea was raised 8 or 9 years ago. It merged with the villages of Maccabim and Reut, both of which to adjoin Modi'in. I am not aware of any precedent for a municipality splitting in Israel. It would lead to greater costs for the Interior Ministry.
    It would also not do the non-haredi residents of RBS any favors. It would immediately drastically lower real estate costs in RBS, and drastically raise them in Sheinfeld, Nofei Aviv and the Givah, where non-haredi RBS residents would want to move.

  5. Shalom David,

    I believe that you are mistaken here.

    Your third option which you seem to be saying is the best (and I agree would be the best if it could be implemented with an atmosphere of mutual love and respect between the candidates), is simply not implementable.

    The fact that Moshe Abutbul would object (with some justification, since as someone commented: would Eli Cohen offer Abutbul half of the term as mayor if Cohen won by a relatively small margin?) would make the solution you are proposing into a forced solution (as you realize when you suggest demonstrations to force the issue).

    The only way the third option could truly help the city heal its rifts, is if the winning candidate would offer it to the losing candidate as an earnest heartfelt suggestion to help heal the great rifts between the many communities in our fair city.

    Until such time as this third option can be implemented in that manner, it seems to me that the only practicable solution is option one or some variation of it, or else for Eli Cohen to simply concede the election without a court contest.

    Even option one can only be implemented if the supporters of clean government can accumulate enough hard evidence to convince a court to decide either that enough votes were "phonied up" for Abutbul, that Cohen is proven to be the actual winner, or that the elections contained so much fraud that they must be disregarded altogether, and we must have new elections to decide who will be mayor (and possible new elections for city council too).

    The option for Eli Cohen to concede without contesting the somewhat questionable results would be implementable if he feels that changing things by litigation is so unlikely to succeed that he would prefer to try to calm things down by being very magnanimous and announcing that he accepts the results as they are and simply hopes to work together with everyone in the city (including Moshe Abutbul) to unite the city and build mutual respect among all factions (which is also unlikely to work because of the many elements who seem to want only to demonize other sectors of the population).

    Therefore, it appears to me that all of us in Bet Shemesh are sort of "between a rock and a hard place", since a simple concession and a decision not to contest the somewhat questionable results by Eli Cohen seems unlikely to help in healing the rifts, and the litigation to contest the results seems unlikely to succeed (unless there is more hard evidence available which is likely to convince a court than I have heard of).

    I only hope that we can all manage to bridge the gaps somehow, and bring about true mutual respect among the different sectors in Bet Shemesh, no matter who ends up becoming mayor for this term.

    Catriel Lev

  6. The fourth option: When Abutbul and his cohorts support housing and services only for Hareidi - sue him for discrimination and work to change the laws that favor Kollel famuiles ABOVE the working poor of Beit Shemesh. This is not as a naive as it seems...there is precedent. The lawsuit against Kol Berama radio station; the lawsuits filed against Egged bus, Kiryat Yovel lawsuit...Hire good forensic accountants with bodyguards and follow the Abutbol's money. This is a 4th option

    LJG, Beit Shemesh

  7. Cohen lost. Personally, I think it's a shame, but he lost. If there was fraud, the losing political party's can choose to fight in the courts. Other than that, it's best to just deal with the fact that Abutbul will be the mayor for the next five years. Immoral tactics in politics? Oh my gosh, what ever shall we do?

    Huge public pressure and demonstrations? Why, so that those few people in the rest of the country who don't already think that Beit Shemesh is run by extremist haredim will get the message? And who, then, will ever want to move to Beit Shemesh other than haredim? Although we've probably reached and passed that point of no return anyway.

    This is democracy. Somethings it stinks, but you can't overturn an election by demonstrating. And shouldn't.

  8. All of the options above will never happen,. We should transfer people from Ramat Shilo to Bet Shemesh? Abutbol will split power? The results of the election are clear there is a 50/50 split in support for either candidate. So no matter which candidate won, the facts on the ground won't change.We all have a right to disagree, but not to hate. I think it's time for people to start moving on and trying to live side by side. We all lived together for the last 5 years, we can also for the next 5 years. But the constant incitement will not make any of our lives any better.

  9. The Hariedim are living in a fantasy world where everything they think up and wish for is true. The universe of 5,780 years old, science is only truthful if it agrees with their version of "Torah". By not challenging their crazy idea that they can also cheat in a modern democratic election "for the sake of Torah", people are reinforcing the idea that their delusions are actual reality. Fundamentalism is a form mental illness brought on by the complexities of modernity. The best thing for these crazies is to overturn this election and throw a dose of sane reality at these people.


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