JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat is still on the fence about running for reelection..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Despite repeated promises over the past year to declare by the end of 2017 whether he will run for a third term as mayor, Nir Barkat told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he remains undecided, and his associates said an announcement by December 31 is unlikely.
“When I will decide, I’ll make it public,” he said.
Barkat, who will speak at the December 6 Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in the capital, said his first priority is to pass the municipal budget, and only then will he declare whether he will run for his third term as mayor in the October 2018 municipal elections.
“This budget is supposed to pass by the end of this year, and then I will decide,” Barkat said.
A Jerusalem Municipality official told the Post
the budget usually passes by the end of the year, but its latest deadline is the following March.
Due to an ongoing dispute with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon over national funding for the city, the process of passing the budget is expected to stretch into 2018. Barkat has said countless times he will decide whether to leave the city for national politics by the end of the year. But his associates have already started backtracking from that promise.
“It was never really a promise,” a Barkat adviser said. “It doesn’t really have to be by the end of the year.”
Waiting to announce his future could help Barkat politically, because the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be clearer a few months into 2018. 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. Because he is not a candidate, he funded a massive rally of thousands of Likud activists featuring Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev on September 25.
Delaying the decision could also help Barkat if he chooses to run again for mayor. The potential candidates seen as most serious are waiting to see whether Barkat runs before deciding whether to run themselves.
The longer he keeps them waiting, the less prepared they will be to challenge him, and the less time they will have to build name recognition.
An unscientific poll run in the local newspaper Kol Ha’ir
’s website gave the most support to city councilmen Moshe Lion and Meir Turgeman, both of whom are waiting for Barkat’s decision. There are already two announced candidates: recently resigned deputy mayor Ofer Berkovitch and former city attorney Avi Salman.
Jerusalem is not the only city with a mayoral race likely to be interesting. Ra’anana is set to elect a successor to retiring mayor and former MK Ze’ev Bielski.
Former Likud MK and current ambassador to UN institutions in Geneva Carmel Shama- Hacohen is expected to run in Ramat Gan. Deputy Construction Minister Jackie Levy (Likud) has not yet decided whether to run for his former post as Beit She’an mayor.
The current mayor, Rafi Ben-Sheetrit, announced Tuesday he is leaving the Likud for Kahlon’s Kulanu Party, complaining that Likud ministers had not done enough to help the city.