Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has said countless times that he would decide by the end of the year whether or not he will seek a third term as mayor or enter national politics. However, on Monday, the mayor told The Jerusalem Post that he did not intend to keep that promise.
Asked at the Likud’s weekly faction meeting whether he intended to make an announcement over the next six days, Barkat said no.
Sources close to Barkat stressed after the meeting that his decision to delay his announcement was connected solely to his battle with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon over funding for Jerusalem and not the political uncertainty created by the criminal investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“If he would announce now that he was leaving Jerusalem and entering national politics, no one in the government would pay attention to him anymore,” a source close to Barkat explained. “If he announced he was staying, it would also harm his negotiations for the city. He cares about the funding for Jerusalem more than his own political future.”
Asked if Barkat understood the ramifications of breaking a promise he made countless times, the source close to him said Kahlon looked worse for not helping Jerusalem.
Waiting to announce his future could help Barkat politically because the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be clearer next month after the police make their recommendations
about his criminal probes. On the one hand, his alliance with Netanyahu could help Barkat make the jump into national politics. On the other hand, if Netanyahu is forced out due to criminal probes, Barkat could be a candidate to replace him.
Once Barkat announces a decision to run in national politics, he would be obligated by campaign fund-raising and spending laws. Delaying the decision could also help Barkat if he chooses to run again for mayor because the potential candidates seen as most serious are waiting to see whether Barkat runs before deciding whether to run themselves.
Municipal opposition leader and chairman of Hitorerut Ofer Berkovitch – who already announced on his candidacy for mayor – told the Post
that he is not surprised that Barkat is not keeping his promise. He said that as he sees is, Barkat uses the city “as a hostage for his political purposes.”
“The fact that Barkat keeps holding the city – without announcing whether he will run in the Likud primaries or for another term as mayor, proves how much he belittles the city and its residents,” Berkovitch said.
“He doesn’t care about the city, and cynically uses it. He’s waiting for the downfall of the prime minister, and that is why he is stalling and putting things on hold. If he will decide to stay, we will have a candidate who sees Jerusalem as a default option. Jerusalem needs a committed mayor who is willing to give everything for it.
“We will return to make good things in the city soon,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Yerushalmim faction joined the municipal coalition on Monday. As part of the agreement, city councilwoman Fleur Hassan-Nahoum will be appointed as deputy mayor.
The faction will also receive the culture, public health, transportation, toddlers education, and families and students portfolios.
In a municipality statement, it was said that the faction will work with the mayor “to upgrade them and develop the neighborhoods with pluralist characteristics.”
“The faction will lead a think tank in cooperation with residents of the neighborhoods in order to understand their needs, and to come up with ideas and enterprises that would be carried out in the municipal levels in the coming year,” the statement read.