Haifa mayor bucks Netanyahu, demands Hamas-supporter as deputy

Haifa’s mayor refused Netanyahu’s request to reverse her decision to appoint a Hamas-supporter as her deputy mayor. 

By World Israel News Staff

Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Raja Zaatry not be appointed as her deputy mayor, Israel Hayom reports.

What started as an internal municipal issue has grown into a national one as it emerged that Zaatry, a member of the Arab communist party and manager of the Joint Arab List, a coalition of Arab parties in the Knesset, had compared Zionism to the violent Islamist group ISIS and supports terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said that he spoke with Mayor Kalisch-Rotem and asked her to cancel the appointment of someone who supports organizations “that declare their wish to destroy the State of Israel.”

But according to associates of the Haifa mayor, she refused Netanyahu’s request, Israel Hayom reports.

The mayor has no intention to retreat from her agreement with the Hadash Party, the radical left-wing Arab coalition to which Zaatry belongs, a senior official in Haifa told Israel Hayom.

Interior Minister looks to block

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he’ll look for legal means to prevent the terrorist-supporter from taking office. On Friday, Deri said he turned to the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to see whether “I had the authority to prevent this, and I very much hope that he will approve it.”

“Raja Zaatry, a member of the Haifa city council, expressed his support for Hezbollah and Hamas, supported the boycott of Israel and expressed support for activities against Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” Deri said.

Zaatry’s salary requires the approval of the interior minister, according to Israeli law.

Legal adviser to the interior ministry, attorney Yehuda Zemrat recently told Deri that Zaatry had denied some of the allegations against him.

Zaatry defiant

Zaatry responded with anger to the campaign against him and told Israel Hayom, “I was chosen in democratic elections to the city council of Haifa according to the law. I will represent the residents of the city, Arabs and Jews. … I was elected by right and not by charity. I’m obligated only to my electors, and they will examine and judge my role and my deeds.”

The paper reports that the incoming deputy also directed a barb at Deri and Yesh Atid Leader Yair Lapid. “I intend to represent my electors with or without a salary, with or without a kosher certificate from the authority of Aryeh Deri, Yair Lapid and the back benches of the Likud and Israel Beiteinu,” he said, referring to the right-wing parties.

A Zionist group, Im Tirtzu, initiated an email campaign in which 20,000 emails were sent to Mayor Kalisch-Rotem demanding that she reverse her appointment of Zaatry.

The group noted that Zaatry was a BDS-supporter who wanted to prevent minorities in Israel from joining the Army and supported Hezbollah in an open manner.