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Will Tel Aviv have its first openly gay mayor?

Meretz MK announces plans to challenge Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s 15-year mayor. Though he faces difficult odds, Horowitz has a legitimate chance to become the first openly gay mayor of any Israeli city.

Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) on Monday announced his intention to run in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipal elections, due to take place on October 22. Horowitz, a second-term MK and former journalist for Channel 10 News, will be challenging former Labor member Ron Huldai, who has served as Tel Aviv’s mayor since 1998. If he wins, Horowitz (49) would be Tel Aviv’s first openly gay mayor, and the first in any Israeli city.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (photo: Moshe Shai / CC-BY 3.0)

In a press conference at the old city hall building on Monday, Horowitz mentioned rising real-estate prices – which sparked the social protest movement in 2011 – along with the city’s infamous transportation problems among his reasons for running. He also promised to introduce a new plan for the city’s southern neighbourhoods, which have almost doubled their population due to the waves of asylum seekers who were sent there by the government.

If elected, Horowitz said he will resign from the Knesset.

Mayor Huldai is still considered a favorite in the race. Internal polls give him around 50 percent of the vote, and only a third to Horowitz. However, the surprising achievement of Hadash’s Dov Khenin, who received over a third of the votes in 2008 despite coming from the margins of the political system, made Horowitz, who is considered more mainstream, believe that he can beat Huldai. Khenin decided not to run this year.

Estimates are that Horowitz could perform very well in the center of the city, where Khenin beat Huldai in 2008. The city’s residential neighborhoods in the north – home to the upper-middle class – are Huldai’s stronghold, but Horowitz could have some appeal there too (certainly more than Khenin did). Horowitz’s challenge will be in the south, where locals are frustrated by what they see as the city’s indifference to pressures the asylum seekers’ presence has put on the municipal infrastructure and the local population. I don’t think that Horowitz can win those votes, but if the south doesn’t break in Huldai’s favor, the elections could be closer than people think.

UPDATE: One point I forgot to make is that Khenin’s relative success was due to a great grassroots operation he was able to form and lead. Horowitz will run a very different campaign, so I am not sure that we can assume that Khenin’s 33 percent represents his floor. 

It will also be interesting to see who receives the support of the Tel Aviv gay community’s leaders, who in the past have been Huldai’s political allies.

Ron Huldai has often been mentioned as a potential leader from the center-left on a national stage, but so far he has decided not to leave his post in Tel Aviv.

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    1. Rosa

      This is Nitzan Horowitz proving that all the critics have it right. He doesn’t care about the periphery at all, only tel aviv, so I say let them have him. It reflects badly on the whole party, makes me regret my vote a little

      Reply to Comment
    2. Matan K

      You are right about the voters of southern neighborhoods, who have in recent elections turned out in very low numbers, and mostly for Huldai. This is an argument in favor of Ir Lekulanu running a Southern/Mizrahi candidate, because this is probably the only way to bring Huldai’s vote to less than 40% and thus force a second round.

      Reply to Comment
    3. zelda harris

      I am trying to make contact with Nitzam Horowitz as I want to help his campaign. He needs to court the neighbourhoods in which Huldai is investing election funds to pretty up the green spaces(If they exist) and add all kinds of extras like benches,sports areas etc without looking at the disgusting conditions in which many people in neighbourhoodss live. Menachem Begin in the 80’s btrought in SHIKUM SCHUNOT to give incentive to those who could or would not improve their residences and surroundings. Our neighbourhood needs that. Also to supervise the road sweeping and clean up of areas surrounding the houses and shops. The ignoring of waste disposal and proclivity of dog feces all over. What ever happened to neighbourhood police to see who’se hanging around the parks and playgrounds at night. I am in North Tel Aviv not tachana Merkazit.
      Please give me his contact addresses
      Thank you
      Zelda Harris 0737258861

      Reply to Comment
    4. Nancy Davidson

      My husband and I have a son living in a rundown apartment in Tel Aviv (we live in the US) – wouldn’t it be wonderful if he would also bring in low cost housing for persons like my son who can’t afford the high rents of the area.

      Reply to Comment