A new, intense and for the moment relatively secret internal war threatens to tear apart the haredi leadership in our city: A new player has entered the political arena and he's shaking up the system. Since Arkadi Gaydamak announced some months ago that he would be running for mayor - an announcement that drew disdain from many - the eccentric oligarch has made an impressive show of force in the capital. He bought, and in so doing saved, Bikur Holim Hospital, he has donated funds to local yeshivot and has even declared intentions to study Talmud. These declarations, coupled with Gaydamak's status as an outsider, have turned him, according to one local haredi man, into the perfect candidate to serve the haredi cause. "He is not haredi, and in our community, many have reached the conclusion that a haredi mayor is not good for us. In addition, he is attentive to our needs," the man said. The problem is that Mayor Uri Lupolianski seems convinced more than ever that he should run - and will win - again. But his somewhat independent attitude is almost considered a threat in his United Torah Judaism party, and Gaydamak, who seems to understand haredi society much better than many veteran politicians and commentators, might step in. The question that remains, however, is: Will Gaydamak be an independent 'wild card' or act as part of a team? Stay tuned, this election year could be very interesting. Democracy and hypocrisy As a member of the opposition in a city council, your eventual aim is to enter the coalition. With elections scheduled for November 2008, it seems that, more than ever, all 11 opposition members share this state of mind. Everybody agrees that this strategy is at the heart of a democratic society and part and parcel of "playing the game," as city councillor Pepe Allalu (Meretz), who defines himself as an eternal oppositionist, once said. But sometimes the situation becomes a little complicated - for instance, when members of the opposition, instead of replacing the coalition, fight internal battles. Take, for example, city councillor Meir Turgeman, who until not long ago was a very active member of Nir Barkat's list. Since they split into two rival lists, both sides, especially Turgeman, have been busy squabbling, most of the time under Lupolianski's smile. The conflict is about the use - or misuse, as Turgeman sees it - of the municipality's facilities by the city councillors and their assistants. Turgeman says that phones, fax machines and even desks and office space should not be used by Barkat's assistants, who, he says, have turned the offices into Barkat's campaign headquarters. Well, is it legal or not? It depends on what you say on the phone. No kidding, that's the answer both councillors received from city attorney Yossi Havilio. According to Havilio, if a city councillor's assistant says on the phone to a citizen that "Nir Barkat will solve such and such problem," it is "kosher." But if the assistant adds something like, "Vote for Barkat at the next elections to solve your problem," the assistant, as well as Barkat, might be stepping in muddy waters. Havilio, by the way, failed to specify who, if anybody, should listen in on Barkat's assistants. After all, you might be interested to know that until now this cardinal issue has captured the attention of Municipal Director-General Yair Ma'ayan, his predecessor Eitan Meir, Havilio, Jerusalem Comptroller Shlomit Rubin and the head of the security department at Kikar Safra Ziv Ayalon. One wishes they would take as seriously trivial issues like cleaning our streets or repairing our sidewalks!

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