THE OLD CITY of Jerusalem – quartered and whole.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
When our family first made aliyah some 30 years ago, we came straight to Jerusalem. For us, Zion was Jerusalem. This is where we headed. This is where we stayed.
Teddy Kollek was still mayor and the issue of a united Jerusalem was very much the agenda. It still is.
Four mayors have come and gone and nothing much has changed. But now, we have a new opportunity. US President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and claims to have “taken it off the [negotiating] table.” In support of this US recognition, Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
Of course, no one party (and certainly not a non-party) can really take an issue “off the table,” but the US declaration opens a window of opportunity to change the facts on the ground and to change perceptions. We can permanently block any attempt to divide Jerusalem or its sovereignty. We can so effectively integrate Jerusalem into the mainstream of Israel’s economic and social life, that reasonable opinion will no longer consider Jerusalem a serious issue for negotiation.
If we are to take advantage of this new opening, the next mayor of Jerusalem will have do a lot more than supervise the city’s day-to-day routine and give speeches on Independence Day and other ceremonial occasions. He or she will have to focus on making a united Jerusalem under Israel sovereignty an irrefutable fact.
This will require deep, broad, strategic and dramatic change. We must now reduce the gap in services among all neighborhoods. We must now decide and legislate a workable City boundary. We cannot have theoretical municipal borders with separation barriers within. We must make sure that work opportunities become available for all populations, so that there is no longer a dire problem of unemployment in Arab neighborhoods. We must effectively police all neighborhoods and protect all Jerusalemites against crime. We must directly control the education in all neighborhoods schools, in all sectors.
All of this must be done now – not formulated as a part of a long-term development plan ending up on a dusty shelf in some bureaucrat’s office.
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The city of Jerusalem cannot do this alone. It must be adopted by the government as national policy with massive state funding, resolute national political support, and international promotion. The direct beneficiaries will be the Palestinians, but each reform, each improvement, will be fought tooth and nail by their so-called leaders, as well as by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
Special interests will also fight us and we will need to mobilize the open support of the Palestinian and Jewish residents. We will also need international understanding and support-or at least neutrality.
I am convinced that only Ze’ev Elkin as mayor can do all this.
Elkin has a proven record as a strong leader who can mobilize political support, who can effectively negotiate for national funds, who can convince the many government ministries to cooperate. He is a national leader who can negotiate with Knesset factions to earn their support, who can twist arms, who can recruit the prime minister, who can enlist international support.
He, alone, has the experience, the skills, and the national and international gravitas. And Ze’ev Elkin is an oleh, a proud Jew and proud Israeli with a healthy sense of Jewish entitlement and a deep understanding and appreciation for both the centrality of Jerusalem in the Jewish psyche and history and its strategic importance on the ground.
This is not the time to elect a young, well-meaning and personable good government candidate who will concentrate diligently on what he knows, the day-to-day mundane business of the city. Nor will it do to elect a sectorial candidate whose primary goal is to please those interests propelling him into the arena who have no sensitivity to the challenge of the hour.
Only a leader of national stature can succeed, a leader who has national backing and a historical focus, who understands the extraordinary opportunity we now have. Only Elkin can negotiate the massive resources we need. Only Elkin can mobilize and coordinate the national support to implement these huge transformations. This is a dramatic moment in history and only a revolution – and nothing short of one – will suffice.
Only after Elkin has brought about this revolutionary change can we afford to consider the well-meaning, young, good government candidate. Cleaning streets is important, but first let’s make sure that these streets we clean will always belong to us.
US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as our capitol, but only we can guarantee this as a fact. We need a seasoned, vigorous, focused, and gifted mayor who will do this. We need Ze’ev Elkin. Only he can pull it off. Any other choice will squander a momentous opportunity and will haunt us for years, if not forever.
The author practices law in Israel and the United States.
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