A crack in the facade

A crack in the facade

October 2, 2009 07:41
3 minute read.

Still in the kindly ambience of Yom Kippur, "Corridors" wants to acknowledge the hard work done by most of the city council members. These people, who work without pay for the sake of their constituencies (or their political future), bear the burden of the responsibility for their portfolios, without any authority. Most of the time they play by the rules, since prestige and some media attention seem fair compensation for the time they spend at meetings and on committees. That was the general situation until last week: The first shot was fired by city councillor Yael Antebi who, strengthened by the 8,200 residents of her neighborhood, Pisgat Ze'ev, declared that she didn't come all the way from her northern quarter to serve as a mere ornament in Mayor Nir Barkat's coalition. Well, she didn't put it that way, but that was the spirit behind her decision to resign from the transportation portfolio. In a phone conversation, Antebi explained that she still considered herself part of the mayor's coalition but didn't want to keep the "responsibility without the authority" characteristic of a city councillor's status. Antebi, who is the only elected official who dares to say openly that she is here on duty - representing the interests of her fellow residents of Pisgat Ze'ev - says she respects the mayor and appreciates what he is doing for the city. "Let's not forget what the situation was before him or the alternatives," she points out, and mentions that her decision was "respected and didn't cause any particular tension" between her and the mayor. In fact, before the other city council members even acknowledged her decision, Antebi was promptly replaced by a city councillor from the Israel Beiteinu party. In an administration run like a hi-tech enterprise, there can be no such a thing as a vacuum in the management, even in its ceremonial aspects. But there is more behind the scenes. Unwittingly, Antebi has initiated a deeper movement. City council member Meir Margalit says that following the changing of the guard at the transportation portfolio he tried, together with a few other members, to send a letter of complaint to Barkat. Its main thrust was the feeling shared by many of the officials that their presence had become "merely decoration for the sake of democracy." According to Margalit, the letter was announcing a collective resignation from the coalition and was sent to the "suspected" rebels among the 30 members. What resulted from this initiative is an excellent illustration of the profound changes that have occurred on the city council where, within less than a year, contempt and disdain for the former head of the opposition have turned into respect, even fear. The bottom line is that so far, nobody has signed the letter. "Barkat works, he doesn't waste time talking. He doesn't take part in any tricks," says a source at Kikar Safra. "It doesn't mean he's always right, it's just that some of the city councillors understand that he is so dedicated to the city's interests the way he sees it, that they can only join him - or step aside and become irrelevant. And most of them choose not to become irrelevant." In another sphere, it seems that in some administrative and professional circles, the first cracks between some high-ranking officials and Barkat are appearing. Last week, it was announced that city engineer Shlomo Eshkol was considering resigning due to the reorganization of the administration within the municipality, initiated by Barkat to maximize its function. As a result Eshkol, who is well respected by many environmental associations in the city, felt that his authority was infringed. As yet no letter of resignation has been sent, and sources close to Eshkol say, "There's no way he will cave in." Nevertheless, this is the first time since the elections that professional opposition has been raised.

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