Coalition friend or foe

The calls for Ofer Berkovitch to resign come not only from Havilio but also from Hitorerut members who wish to see him challenge Barkat.

Ofer Berkovitch (photo credit: SHARON GABAI)
Ofer Berkovitch
(photo credit: SHARON GABAI)
They were never really close friends, but Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (Likud) and deputy Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) share some qualities. Both are secular, young and successful, and dedicated to Jerusalem. They were both bearers of promise for the city – that pluralist youth could find their place here.
A closer look at their actions could easily bring out some deep differences as well, but the two were, at least two terms ago, definitely on the same side in working to dethrone haredi strongman Uri Lupolianski.
Berkovitch is keeping calm, at least that is what he tries to show, but the temperature between them is approaching boiling point. As if that were not enough, Berkovitch is being called upon by attorney Yossi Havilio, a prominent anti-Barkat activist, to join his crusade demanding Barkat resign and to join the opposition benches to represent the capital’s pluralist residents.
However, Berkovitch has no intention, at least for the moment, to resign or even to quit the coalition. In a long post he published on his social media page, he explained that he still believes in running the struggle from inside the coalition.
Sources say that the opposition, which now includes Meretz and Yerushalmim, is in fact irrelevant and cannot make any change, leaving Berkovitch frustrated. For a while he and the mayor have not been on speaking terms, and recently the only exchange of communication between them was conducted through the medium of city legal adviser Eli Malka. This was over the issue of alleged misuse of Safra Square facilities for events which, according to Barkat, they had no right to use.
Berkovitch is keeping a low profile regarding his expected candidacy for the mayoralty in the next elections. Off the record, he says that he feels he is absolutely capable, but is not in a hurry. For the moment he is mostly focusing on obtaining more than the current four seats Hitorerut has on the council.
The calls for him to resign come not only from Havilio but also from Hitorerut members who wish to see him challenge Barkat. What may be behind these calls is the desire of many to form a strong opposition and to position themselves as a bloc that would represent pluralist residents.
Meanwhile, Barkat hasn’t yet decided whether he will run again. Until then, all the undeclared potential candidates remain on standby.