A lesson in politics

In delaying renewing a contract for one of Nir Barkat’s hirees, some coalition members found an effective way to taunt the mayor – without causing any long-term damage.

City's thriving culture scene (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
City's thriving culture scene
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
In politics, lessons are taught and learned almost every day. Often, these lessons are the results of the behind-the scenes (un)diplomatic struggles waged among the various parties on the city council. Mostly, they are the little moments of sweet revenge that members of the coalition, who cannot permit themselves to openly disagree with the mayor, indulge in while cautiously avoiding getting caught.
Such is the story of the reinstating of Mayor Nir Barkat’s special culture consultant, Nava Dissenchik. A culture aficionado who has successfully completed a few projects both here and in Tel Aviv, Dissenchik was hired by Barkat a few months after he took office. Later, the reason became clear.
In order to placate the municipality’s employee’s committee, he had to capitulate and appoint two people to the two most important positions in the cultural projects who, to put it bluntly, had nothing to do with culture. Politics has its price. If you want to get things done and implement some major changes in an institution, you need at least one ally. The head of the employee’s committee would be the best bet. Barkat quickly learned the new system, agreed to appoint the two in question – one as head of the Culture Department, the other above him as head of the community, youth and culture wing, and peace was established in Kikar Safra.
What remained was to find someone who actually did know something about culture and would, discreetly but effectively, point the city’s cultural life in the right direction. True, not all the impressive cultural changes and achievements we have witnessed in the past two years are solely the work of Dissenchik, but she was quite involved.
So far, so good. Well, not exactly.
Mayor Barkat has a strong coalition, but love and sympathy are not the most common emotions displayed there. The haredim feel resentful because of the food festival that included non-kosher food, the liturgical festival in churches and synagogues – both of which took place this year – the Carta parking-lot affair, and the list goes on. Meretz members, before and after they rejoined the coalition, feel they should make a point so that they are not taken too much for granted in the struggle against haredi hegemony. Likud representative Elisha Peleg is still smarting about not being chosen as the eighth deputy mayor and would not miss an opportunity to make Barkat’s life a little harder, and the same with other members. The only representative of the opposition, city council member Meir Turgeman, told In Jerusalem that he was more than glad to block one of the mayor’s requests. Within the professional ranks, some have still not accepted Dissenchik’s presence and would not miss an opportunity to taunt her and her boss.
To make a long story short, here is what happened last week at one of the city’s committees. A request in the name of the mayor to renew (for the third time) Dissenchik’s contract was submitted by the Community, Culture and Youth Wing to the committee that approves employment of external employees for specific tasks. For some reason, someone forgot to add to Dissenchik’s proposal at least two other candidates, as required by law. I can remember at least two cases in the past where, in similar circumstances, a faithful coalition has found a legal but more convenient solution. In this case, says Turgeman, “No one was eager to make things easier. You know, it was our little way of sending a message to the sixth floor – like we were still free to taunt at least.”
So the proposal was taken off the committee’s agenda and will have to wait another two or three weeks, until at least two other similar proposals are submitted (for the sake of free market, etc., etc.) Nothing dramatic. Dissenchik will be reinstalled in her position, culture in Jerusalem will be safe, but another page of this collusive coalition will be added to this administration’s story.