Israel went to polls yesterday for municipal elections– or more correctly– some of Israel went to the polls. Overall turnout was low. This directly parallels the state of U.S. "off-year" elections. Of course, in Israel national elections take place only once in 4 years, and local elections happen once in five years. However, much of what went on yesterday had a nearly farcical element. Three Mayors ran in this election who were under indictment for significant crimes (who had been removed from office by the High Court, and whom the High Court stated it would remove from office again-- in the event they were re-elected). All three were re-elected. In Jerusalem, the mayor (who by all accounts has been competent) was nearly defeated by a carpetbagger brought from Givaytayim by the absurd political collusion of Aryeh Deri and Avigdor Lieberman. Luckily, for reasons we do not fully understand, the Charedim failed to all support the Deri/Lieberman candidate en masse and Nir Barkat won reelection.
By and large, it is clear that it is very hard to unseat a sitting mayor– as evidenced by the fact that almost all of the sitting mayors were reelected yesterday, including the above mentioned politicians under indictment. One thing that can be said of all these elections is that they were almost never fought over issues. Furthermore, the major parties had very little to do with the elections. It was all about personality and power. The once exception was in Beit Shemesh, where a coalition of Modern Orthodox and secular residents joined together to try to oust the Charedi Shas mayor. They failed.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Kerry are scheduled to meet for an unprecedented 7 hour meeting today in Rome. It looks like when it comes to the negotiations with the Palestinians, the rubber has now hit the road. We will see soon if Netanyahu is prepared to make true concession or not.