The failure by Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin to win the Jerusalem mayoral race or to even come in second is yet another example of “Physician, heal thyself.” As a former university lecturer in history, Elkin should have looked at the very recent history of the Jerusalem Municipality.
When Moshe Lion made his first bid for mayor five years ago, he actually moved to Jerusalem and did not conveniently register himself at the address of a resident relative. After he lost the election, he stayed in Jerusalem as an active member of the City Council, and announced prior to this week’s elections that even if he loses a second time, he will continue to remain in Jerusalem and to serve the interests of the city. Over the past five years he worked hard to win the trust of the local population, and the result now is a run-off with Ofer Berkowitz, a native son of the city who has also worked hard to prove himself.
Elkin made the mistake of revealing that if he failed to gain election, he would remain in the Knesset and continue to be a government minister. There were many rumors to the effect that he and outgoing mayor Nir Barkat were playing musical chairs and that after the 2019 Knesset elections, Elkin would be mayor of Jerusalem and Barkat would be Minister for Jerusalem Affairs.
There has been strong denial from the Prime Minister’s Office that such a deal was struck, but it’s hard to believe that it was not discussed by the parties concerned. Otherwise, why would Barkat abandon candidates with whom he worked on the City Council for someone who had no intention of joining the council if he failed to become mayor?
There is also the contentious issue of the light rail going through Emek Refaim in Jerusalem’s German Colony. Despite objections by the majority of residents and merchants, Barkat was pushing for the light rail till the very last minute. If he were given the ministerial portfolio, he would push even harder. There is now a question mark not only over his political future, but also over Elkin’s.
While it currently seems certain that Likud will win the next general election, preelection surveys can prove to be faulty – as was the case in Tel Aviv, where it seemed early on Tuesday that Ron Huldai would not serve a fifth term as mayor. As yet, it is not known whether Ma’alot-Tarshiha’s Shlomo Buhbut, Israel’s longest serving mayor who has been in office for 42 years, will continue for another term. He has a run-off with lawyer Yossi Barda. As always in Israel, we live in interesting times.
■ ONE OF the most positive signs of the close, long-term friendship between Israel and Australia manifested itself at this time last year when both the prime minister and opposition leader of Australia came to Israel together with several parliamentarians, the governor general of New Zealand and literally thousands of Australians and New Zealanders to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba – one of the most ancient cities in the world, but one which nowadays is described as “Israel’s capital of opportunity.”
That’s what Yair Nagid, head of the Cultural Administration of the Beersheba Municipality and director general of the Kivunim Performing Arts Center called it on Wednesday at the Park of the Australian Soldier, which was gifted to the city by the Melbourne-headquartered Pratt Foundation. Nagid was speaking at the third of three ceremonies commemorating the 101st anniversary of the battle of Beersheba, which changed the course of history in the Middle East.
The ceremonies were organized by the Australian Embassy and the Beersheba Municipality. The first was at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, the second at the nearby monument to Turkish soldiers who fell in the Battle of Beersheba and the third at the Park of the Australian Soldier.
The events were attended by diplomats and military attachés representing all three branches of the armed forces. In addition, there were representatives from Australian and New Zealand Zionist youth organizations, Australian ,New Zealand and Israel branches of the Jewish National Fund, various ex-service associations from the UK and Australia, the Zionist Federations of Australia and New Zealand, the Society for the Heritage of World War One, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the ANZAC Memorial Center Beersheba, the Arava Partnership and youth movements Habonim Dror, Hineneini, Betar, Bnei Akiva, Netzer and Love Never Fails.
There were also representatives from the Australian and New Zealand contingents of the Australian Multinational Forces and Observers (MFO), the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and the IDF. New Zealand ambassador Wendy Hinton, came specially from Ankara where she is stationed, and Warren Dawson came from New Zealand to read excerpts from the diary of his grandfather mounted rifle trooper Gerald Dawson, who fought in Beersheba 101 years ago.
Hinton wore a traditional Maori cloak as well as medals and ribbons awarded to members of her family who had fought in New Zealand’s armed forces.
The diplomats and military attachés came from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Canada, France, Germany, Turkey, India, the US, the UK and the Solomon Islands. Noting the presence of the German and Turkish representatives, Australian ambassador Chris Cannan commented that it proves that “yesterday’s foe can be today’s friend.”
Both he and Hinton noted that Australia and New Zealand, which were relatively new nation states, took part in every major engagement of the Sinai-Palestine campaign.
Hinton said that Britain’s General Edward Allenby, who commanded the Sinai-Palestine campaign, commended the courage, discipline and dash of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, calling them “devils on horseback.”
■ THERE AREN’T too many intellectuals or foreign ministers whose admirers refer to them as rock stars, but that’s how Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is regarded in Canada, according to David Cape, the chairman of Canada’s Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and now a member of Freeland’s entourage. Cape, who accompanied Freeland on a walk through Jerusalem’s Old City, said that it was the highlight of his current visit, because they bumped into a group of Canadian tourists who stopped, stared and then yelled “OMG, it’s Chrystia Freeland!” They immediately surrounded her, chatted excitedly and asked her to pose for selfies. Freeland made time for them and obliged.
Very much a people person as well as a human rights activist, Freeland attended a reception on Wednesday night hosted in her honor by Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons, who called on international human rights lawyer and former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler ,who is Freeland’s mentor, to introduce her to the invited guests at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem.
It turned out to be a mutual admiration society, with Lyons saying great things about Cotler and Freeland, reciprocity by Freeland, and Cape praising all three when he gave Freeland a vote of thanks. No sooner did she step down from the podium, that the petite Freeland – who packs an intellectual wallop – was engulfed by well-wishers also wanting to pose for photos with her.
Aside from the usual red-and-white décor that is a feature of Canadian events, much of the music in the background was by Leonard Cohen, and at the entrance to the reception area, there were several billboards highlighting the history of Jewish life in Canada and the Jewish contribution to the development of the “Great White North” in almost every possible field.
The multilingual Freeland, who was a distinguished journalist and author before embarking on a political career, is of Ukrainian background on her mother’s side. When she was introduced by Lyons to Ambassador of Ukraine Hennadii Nadolenko, she spoke to him in Ukrainian and Russian. Earlier in the day, she had conversed in those languages with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein who was born in Ukraine. She also speaks Italian, French and English.
As a journalist, she worked for several major publications and was Moscow bureau chief and East European correspondent for the Financial Times. She was also the New York-based United States managing editor for the Times.
When Lyons called on Cotler to introduce Freeland, she spoke of him in glowing terms; Cotler reciprocated, describing Lyons as “an exemplary ambassador,” a sentiment echoed by Freeland, who at the start of her own address declared that all good things that had been done by the Canadian government, particularly in human rights, “were done because we listened to Irwin.”
She credited Cotler with embodying “what it is to be a great Canadian and a great Jewish Canadian.” Cotler called Freeland “an exemplary parliamentarian” and said that she was the first foreign minister to appoint an Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security.” The following day at a meeting co-hosted by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and the Canadian Embassy, Freeland happily stated that the present Canadian government is a feminist email@example.com
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