In a surprise move, Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat was named Monday as the head of Kadima's Jerusalem campaign headquarters.
Barkat ran as a largely unknown independent in the city's last mayoral elections, refusing to identify himself with any of the national political parties. His move to Kadima was seen as attempt to jump-start his chances in the next Jerusalem mayoral elections.
"I have always identified with Ariel Sharon and his policies, and the Kadima party is, in my view, the classic centrist party in Israel," Barkat told The Jerusalem Post Monday.
Barkat stressed that he remained committed to his heretofore independent position as Jerusalem opposition leader, and was not interested in entering national politics.
"I am totally focused on Jerusalem," Barkat said.
But the move was seen as an attempt by Barkat to position himself as a possible Kadima candidate in the 2008 Jerusalem mayoral elections, something which could give the self-made hi-tech millionaire a major boast in popularity. Barkat conceded that he would be "happy" if he were to receive such an endorsement but stressed that such a possibility was "not on the agenda" at present.
The move comes as former Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy is also planning to throw his hat into the Jerusalem mayoral race.
While Barkat stressed that he fully backed Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's leadership, Olmert did not endorse Barkat in the last Jerusalem mayoral elections, and it remains unclear to whom he would give his backing to in the next race.