O Jerusalem

Politicians are angry at those ignoring the government directive to relocate all ministries to the capital.

The Tourism Ministry offices in Jerusalem. A subsidiary of the ministry is scheduled to move to Tel Aviv. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Tourism Ministry offices in Jerusalem. A subsidiary of the ministry is scheduled to move to Tel Aviv.
In politics, it is an accepted fact that there will be gaps between the declarations politicians make and the facts on the ground. In less cynical terms, one could say that politicians frequently face a tricky choice between their pledges and their interests, and end up acting differently than they have said they will.
Yet there are some lines most do not cross – for example, regarding Jerusalem. One is unlikely to find a politician who would argue against the primacy of Jerusalem. Even representatives of the left-wing parties avoid doing so loudly and clearly, usually preferring to make vague remarks about the need to consolidate the city economically and socially.
Representatives of the Center and right-wing parties, of course, make abundant declarations on the status of Jerusalem and all the things the state and the people of Israel owe it.
Even here, however, declarations and reality are not the same thing – and when the reality actually fails to respect the law, it raises even more anger.
The reality in question is that the mayor and some city council members have to beg the government repeatedly to fulfill some of the most minimal requests for the city’s benefit – requests that often fall on deaf ears. This is not new, but it has repeatedly caused a great deal of frustration among the city council members.
This time, the controversy centers on the Tourism Ministry and the Communications Ministry, which are, respectively, moving a department to and establishing a new department in the Center of the country, rather than the capital.
Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) recently found out that a subsidiary company of the Tourism Ministry that has been working here for years is supposed to move to Tel Aviv. Separately he discovered that there were plans to install a new unit of the Prime Minister’s Office outside the city.
“This is not only disgraceful for the capital of the state,” he asserts, “but it also has serious significance in terms of employment, direct and indirect income for the city, and adding productive residents – and of course, above all, it says something bad about our city, as if it were not good enough for the government’s plans.
This is intolerable!” Berkovitch sent Communications Minister Gilad Erdan an official letter earlier this week, calling on him to install both his personal office – which recently moved to the country’s Center – and his ministry’s planned new emergency department in Jerusalem.
His ministry already has eight different departments operating from Tel Aviv, none of which are currently expected to be transferred to the capital.
Meanwhile, Berkovitch also asked Tourism Ministry Uzi Landau not to allow the planned transfer of the Subsidiary Company for Tourism from the capital to Tel Aviv.
A 2010 government decision mandated the transfer of all government units and departments to Jerusalem. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach announced a government decision to postpone the deadline for those transfers from 2015 to 2018, mostly for financial reasons. But according to the same announcement, no more ministry departments or offices are supposed to move from Jerusalem until 2018.
Berkovitch and Mayor Nir Barkat have discovered that the facts on the ground do reflect these government decisions; hence their anger.
Barkat issued his own appeal to the prime minister not to allow the aforementioned moves, but Berkovitch admits that even if the appeal is heard and implemented, the frustration the situation has caused remains.
“It is unacceptable that we, the city council members and the mayor, have to watch constantly, to spy on ministries and see that none of them moves out of here or opens a new unit in Tel Aviv. This is shameful,” he says. “We get discreet calls from employees who learn about such moves and call us to warn us – this is offensive. It offends Jerusalem and its residents. We [shouldn’t] have to run after the ministries and beg them to come here – that should be their first priority. It’s not enough to speak about... [Jerusalem’s] unification and its eternity. They should talk less and do more for Jerusalem.”