Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat joined the Likud Tuesday and called on his supporters to do the same.
In a video posted to his Facebook page, Barkat said: “Fifteen years ago, I left my businesses to serve Jerusalem with the salary of one shekel per year. With the same sense of duty and responsibility, I am joining the Likud this morning.”
The announcement comes days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to move up the Likud leadership primary to February, pending a central committee vote. Barkat, former minister Gideon Sa’ar and Transportation Minister Israel Katz are all thought to be possible contenders for the leadership position, and many in the party suspected the early primary proposal is a move to stymie their candidacies.
In recent months, Likud insiders said Barkat already had recruited thousands of Likud members to support him an eventual run for party leader.
In his video, Barkat indicated that he would not run in the upcoming primary, saying he will continue as mayor until the end of his term, which is in almost three years, before possibly running for a national position.
“Jerusalem is my life’s work. We have work to do, and I will continue serving Jerusalem as mayor,” he stated.
“In the future, I will make a decision whether to run again or to continue serving the public on a national level.”
In the last Jerusalem mayoral election, the Likud, then in a joint Knesset faction with Yisrael Beytenu, supported Moshe Lion, not Barkat.
Still, Barkat pointed out that in this year’s Knesset election, he supported the Likud and Netanyahu.
“As someone who believes in protecting a united Land of Israel and Jerusalem, strengthening security and shrinking social gaps, I cannot stand aside,” he stated.
“If many people join Likud, new blood will flow and a new spirit will strengthen the leadership that comes to serve the public without foreign interests… and will also strengthen Jerusalem and allow it to take the place it belongs in the distribution of national resources.”
Before the budget vote last month, Jerusalem municipality workers held protests against what they felt was not enough funding for the city, blocking the roads to the Knesset with garbage trucks.
Barkat concluded his message by calling on his supporters to join him in joining the Likud.
Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) welcomed Barkat’s announcement.
“The mayor of Jerusalem notified me this morning of his move to join the Likud,” he said. “It is only natural that the mayor would be a member of the leading national party... it serves as a representation of the deep connection between the Likud movement and Jerusalem, and strengthens both.”
“As the Jerusalem Minister, I will continue to cooperate and coordinate activities daily with the mayor to promote the development and success of Jerusalem,” Elkin added.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev (Likud) also welcomed Barkat to the Likud, calling his decision to join “the right move.”
“The Likud is the largest movement, a national, Zionist and social party that always welcomes the expansion of its ranks,” she said.
Ro Yeger contributed to this report.
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