The Likud member announced his campaign via a recorded message to Jerusalem residents.

Minister Zeev Elkin.

Minister Zeev Elkin. Photo: Uri Lintz/Flash90

Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection, Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), who currently serves as a member of the Knesset for the Likud party and is also the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, announced on Thursday that he will be seeking the position of mayor of Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the de-facto leader of Elkin’s party, has not yet endorsed the campaign.

In a statement released from Elkin’s office, the minister stated that he “notified the prime minister that I’ve decided to run for mayor.” Elkin added that he is “prepared to step down from the post of a senior minister and a member of the security cabinet because Jerusalem is a challenge of the highest national priority.” Elkin had previously made clear his intentions to seek the mayor’s office back in April and had since been waiting to receive the prime minister’s blessing along with the Likud Municipal Committee.

Earlier this week, Israeli Minister of Internal Affairs Aryeh Deri criticized the prime minister for failing to appoint a Likud candidate for the position of the Mayor of Jerusalem, adding “I don’t care who Netanyahu supports. Perhaps he and his wife have two voices, and his sons have two more.” Members of Elkin’s inner circle retorted by claiming that Deri and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have been pressing Netanyahu not support Elkin’s campaign, so as not to harm Jerusalem City Councilman Moshe Leon’s campaign. Choosing to move forward without the prime minister’s support, Elkin’s campaign must now face Leon for the support of the party.

Nir Barkat, who has served as Mayor of Jerusalem since 2008, announced back in March that he would not seek re-election. Instead, Barkat has set his sight on the national elections and will run with Likud in the next Knesset elections. Since Barkat’s announcement, deputy mayor Meir Turgeman (Jerusalem Will Succeed) and Labor MK Nachman Shai are also among the candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring.

Whichever candidate is able to receive the millions of shekels in funding provided by the Likud party’s support will start the race with a large advantage over the other candidates. United Torah Judaism leader Ya’akov Litzman was quoted this week stating that his party, which has a significant following in Jerusalem, would wait until August to officially endorse a candidate. Without UTJ’s guaranteed support, the decision to endorse a candidate likely becomes more complicated for the prime minister.

During a closed-door Likud meeting this week, members of the party attempted to persuade the prime minister to endorse Elkin’s candidacy. The prime minister responded that he understands “the importance of [Elkin] running for Jerusalem mayor, and I don’t need mediators to relay the message.” The prime minister added that he “needs Elkin in the government and the security cabinet.”