Nir Barkat speaks at JPost Diplomatic Conference.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Reports that Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat is preparing to enter national politics could rupture his close ties with American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Likud sources said Tuesday.
Barkat made the Las Vegas based casino mogul an honorary citizen of Jerusalem in a festive ceremony in May 2013.
Adelson’s foundation supports many institutions in Jerusalem.
The newspaper Adelson owns, Israel Hayom
, was also the main sponsor of the capital’s June 2013 Formula One race that Barkat sees as one of his top achievements in office.
But Adelson is a patron of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and any possible candidate to run against him has faced the wrath of the free newspaper, which has the largest circulation of any Israeli daily paper.
In a column that ran over the weekend, Israel Hayom
political correspondent Mati Tuchfeld described recent steps Barkat has taken as “beginner’s mistakes.”
The column said the mayor was showing signs that he would challenge Netanyahu at the first possible opportunity.
Tuchfeld, who follows the newspaper’s vehemently pro-Netanyahu line, slammed Barkat for encouraging his constituents to bear arms and for enabling a school strike to obtain funding for security guards at educational institutions.
“The job of a mayor is to calm his citizens and not to give them stress,” Tuchfeld wrote.
The news website Ynet reported that Omri Rahamim, one of Barkat’s former aides in the city, quit his post to become Barkat’s campaign manager in Likud.
The report said Barkat has registered thousands of Likud members, though he himself has not yet joined the party.
Barkat’s office responded that he has not made any decision to run in the next election in Likud. His associates would only say he would announce in the next two years whether he will seek a third term as mayor.
“The mayor deals only with advancing and developing Jerusalem,” a Barkat associate said. “The last municipal election proved the necessity to build political power, which is important to guarantee that Jerusalem will continue to get stronger, without any connection to national politics.”