In Barkat’s words

Mayor Nir Barkat answered journalists’ questions and explained why he decided to go on strike.

Mayor Nir Barkat (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Mayor Nir Barkat
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
On a sunny but chilly Sunday morning, Mayor Nir Barkat stood on a municipality bulldozer near the Finance Ministry and addressed municipality employees summoned to take part in the general strike. After that, Barkat answered journalists’ questions, and explained why he decided to go on strike.
Barkat: The present situation is a disaster. We’re talking about an additional budget that has been already approved by the Treasury. Not obtaining it is a catastrophe in terms of the services we can give to the residents. This is a country that has a reserve of NIS 11 billion, yet its capital is the only city that has no approved budget. Something is wrong here.
So we are here today, calling on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and his staff to look into the matter seriously. We had an agreement with [Director General of the Finance Ministry] Shay Babad and it was already approved by the minister – so I tell them, stand by your own decisions. I will not accept, under any conditions, less than what was agreed upon.
The Finance Ministry says that this is an irresponsible and savage strike.
Barkat: What is irresponsible here is that the capital has no approved budget and the Treasury is showing us a cold shoulder, we can’t even debate it with them and this is a shame.
Could the problem be Nir Barkat vs Moshe Kahlon?
Barkat: Ask them. It could be an issue, but how is Jerusalem linked to that?
So what is the next step?
Everybody supports us… I have no opposition to this step, even in the Knesset, they all understand that Jerusalem is not a simple city, it is a complex city, and we manage to move all the residents forward, Jews and Arabs alike, I have a wall-to-wall coalition with 30 of 31 members of the city council. Once we get this budget, it will be approved by the city council with a very large consensus.
What are you planning for the next few days?
Barkat: The city of Jerusalem will not go back to its routine until we get the money we deserve. We have applied to Bank Leumi for a loan of NIS 1b. to build 1,000 classrooms out of the 3,800 that are lacking. The Interior Ministry agrees, but the Treasury is preventing us from getting that loan.
Why don’t you call for the prime minister to intervene?
Barkat: Of course, if there is no other option, we will call on him, but for the moment the prime minister says, rightfully, that Kahlon is the only one, according to the coalition agreements, who has the right to deal with financial and budget issues.