Lion elected Jerusalem mayor in victory for ultra-Orthodox

JERUSALEM (AP) — Longtime political activist Moshe Lion has been elected mayor of Jerusalem in a victory for ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents.

Lion, who was backed by much of Israel’s top leadership, claimed victory over Ofer Berkovitch early Wednesday in a closely contested race. Lion enjoyed the support of key ultra-Orthodox factions and their representatives in government, as well as that of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and powerful figures in the ruling Likud party.

The 35-year-old Berkovitch is a secular activist who pushed a progressive agenda against religious hard-liners.

Jerusalem’s diverse population is split nearly evenly between Palestinians Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews and the rest of the Jewish residents — both secular and observant.

The mayor has little influence over Middle East politics and diplomacy, but has a strong symbolic presence both nationally and internationally.