Einav Bar-Cohen, former deputy mayor Ofer Berkovitch and Elad Malka of Hiterorut at a press conference in Jerusalem, November 2017 .
(photo credit: SHARON GABAI)
The last party on the Jerusalem City Council coalition that was both secular and religious – Hitorerut – announced its resignation from the bloc on Monday.
The move comes in light of the ongoing rift between the pluralist party and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat over Barkat’s proposed master- neighborhoods plan, which will essentially divide the city into religious and secular neighborhoods.
According to the plan, ultra-Orthodox institutions and kindergartens will be built in neighborhoods that have traditionally been considered secular.
Faction leader and former deputy mayor Ofer Berkovitch said Barkat carried out the plan as part of a deal with the ultra-Orthodox city councilmen and to further his ambitions for national office.
“Our mayor is not here for a while now,” Berkovitch said at a press conference at the Mahaneh Yehuda market on Monday.
“His head is in the Knesset, or in the premiership. Jerusalem was abandoned for narrow political interests and to damage prioritization. Everything that we did in favor of its economic strength, character and everything that Hitorerut was fighting for in the past decade is gone,” he said.
Berkovitch then announced his intention to run for mayor in 2018.
“Jerusalem needs a leader after this crisis,” he said. “Hitorerut under my leadership will form a wide, wall-to-wall Zionist front.”
Barkat’s office responded to the move by saying the mayor was saddened to see how “a faction that started with good intentions decides to take part in a politically orchestrated deal by [Finance Minister Moshe] Kahlon on the back of Jerusalem’s residents.”
Two weeks ago, Hitorerut filed a petition against Barkat with the Jerusalem District Court, claiming he ordered municipality administration officials to avoid meeting with them.
“Barkat did not only use municipality workers to fight our criticism, he used the public in Jerusalem,” Berkovitch said. “He barred the administration officials – illegally – to hold professional meetings with us, and thus prevented us from helping the city residents,” he added.
Barkat responded a day later with a letter that threatened to fire the four faction members.
“A situation in which coalition members are petitioning against the mayor is impossible, just like it is unbearable to think that a cabinet minister will appeal against the prime minister,” he said.