In a much anticipated decision issued last week, the Jerusalem District Court nullified the October re-election victory of Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul. To the extent that the judgment represents the repudiation of the heavy-handed and downright illegal tactics employed by those allegedly allied with the haredi-backed mayor, we applaud the decision.
Now the voters must head back to the polls to decide between Abutbul and challenger Eli Cohen, whose backers include a coalition of secular and national religious parties. Our hope is that this time around there will be no instances of the widespread voter fraud discovered by police and confirmed by the court in their review of election activities.
The fact that Abutbul won by only 956 votes back in the fall highlights the fact that Beit Shemesh — sister city to the greater Washington, D.C., Jewish community — is a city literally split in two. Those in its primarily haredi Southern environs frequently clash with those in the city’s older and more secular core. Little exists to unite the two populations in terms of business or education, let alone from among elements within the municipal government.
But division in politics, especially in Israel, is nothing new. What alarmed observers of this mayoral contest was the apparent willingness by purportedly religious camps to rig the system in favor of “their” guy. Such behavior befits neither citizens of a great democracy nor those who claim to guard the sanctity of the Torah.
In the next round, may the best candidate win, and win fairly.