Horowitz loses bid to become first openly gay Middle Eastern mayor

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As results come in from today’s municipal elections, it appears that Nitzan Horowitz will lose his bid to become Tel Aviv’s next mayor.ISrel Flag Icon

Horowitz (pictured above), a member of Israel’s Knesset from the leftist, secular Meretz (מרצ, ‘Energy’), appears to have come up short in his bid to unseat Ron Huldai, who has been the mayor of Israel’s most populous city since 1998.

Huldai, a member of the center-left Labor Party (מפלגת העבודה הישראלית), is a retired Israeli air force general, and his reelection campaign has been to stand on his 15-year record presiding over Tel Aviv’s transformation into a truly international city as a cultural and financial powerhouse, not just within Israel but for the entire Middle East.

A former Haaretz reporter and a television reporter for Israel’s Channel 10 news program, Horowitz was first elected to the Knesset in 2009.  Horowitz, who is openly gay, would have become mayor of one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the Middle East, where even Huldai has long since learned to court the gay vote:

In his two terms, Huldai has become the community’s darling; he is photographed at every LGBT community event, voices support for the community, and opens the annual Pride parades.

“Undoubtedly Huldai has come a long way since his quote 15 years ago, when he said ‘two gays kissing disgust me like cockroaches,'” says city-council candidate Mizrahi, chairman of Meretz’s gay forum. “Still, I think we need more than parade openings. We need a group that will work and understand the gay community’s needs. Our candidates are very experienced on that front.”

Given the astounding economic growth in Tel Aviv, Horowitz emphasized the city’s increasingly unaffordable prices, and a growing divide between an affluent northern Tel Aviv with a less wealthy southern Tel Aviv, including relatively poorer Arabs in the old port of Jaffa south of the new city center.  Horowitz has campaigned on a plan to create a housing authority to deliver more affordable housing.

While there are plenty of Tel Avivis unhappy with the uneven pace of development, there are apparently more who have benefitted from Tel Aviv’s growth and are willing to stick with Huldai, who will become Tel Aviv’s longest-serving mayor when his new term concludes in 2018.

In the Jerusalem mayoral election, secular, centrist incumbent Nir Barkat, a former venture capitalist who entered Jerusalem politics in the early 2000s.  Barkat had the support of both Labor and Meretz, and he will defeat right-wing candidate Moshe Lion, the former chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority, who has the support of the Likud / Yisrael Beiteinu coalition (הליכוד ישראל ביתנו‎) of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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