Postmortem for a strike

"We’ll get this money in the end, but it will be like putting a Band-Aid on a serious wound..."

Councilwoman Fleur Hassan-Nahoum (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Councilwoman Fleur Hassan-Nahoum
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
This past Sunday morning, with piles of garbage still dotting the cityscape, Mayor Nir Barkat joined the weekly government meeting and heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu express some understanding regarding Jerusalem’s needs.
A few hours later, official releases from the government and the municipality disclosed the result: a joint commission to the city and government ministries was established, led by the prime minister’s CEO, to learn about and build up a new program of support for the city’s needs – and the last visible remnants of the strike were cleared away.
One key issue that was satisfactorily resolved was funding for afternoon programs in preschools and the lower grades; a shortfall of more than NIS 500 million has been covered, enabling the continuity of these programs.
In a more comprehensive view, what remains for this new commission to do – beyond the urgent need to resolve the personal animosity between Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon – is to find a permanent and definitive solution to Jerusalem’s special funding needs.
After the phone call from Netanyahu that put an end to the savage strike, the city is cleaner, but still licking its wounds. The anger, frustration and, most of all, the loss of trust on the part of many residents toward the mayor are still festering. Barkat’s decision to launch a general municipal strike is regarded by most to be at least a mistake, if not worse. Detractors accuse him of being driven by his political agenda rather than by what is good for the capital.
“For the moment, we don’t know what will come out of this new commission,” a high-ranking official at Safra Square said on Monday morning. “We all know that commissions are sometimes synonymous with burying the issues at stake.”
Officially, the special commission is to submit its conclusions and recommendations within two weeks. As for Barkat? He declared that the major point of the commission is to find solutions to “enable the city of Jerusalem to take on the national challenges it is facing in the 50th year of its reunification.”
His reference to the challenges involved in the jubilee reunification year is something that raises concern among high-ranking municipality professionals. They fear that the commission will fail to adequately address Jerusalem’s most basic and intractable problems, such as the lack of affordable housing, the need for more high-paying and rewarding jobs, poverty and security issues.
Sources say that the issue of extra government funding to cover the festivals planned for the 50th anniversary has already been solved; the money will come from the Culture and Sport Ministry. What remains is the additional funding that Barkat requests, a sum of more than NIS 200,000. The mayor refuses to divulge details about its intended use, and this is at the root of his fight with Kahlon.
City councilwoman – now in the opposition – Fleur Hassan-Nahoum (Yerushalmim) is concerned about this.
“We’ll get this money in the end, but it will be like putting a Band-Aid on a serious wound – we are going to find ourselves in the exact same place under the same conditions next year,” she cautions.
A municipal spokesman confirmed that Barkat appreciated Netanyahu’s decision to take responsibility for the situation and offer his help to find a solution. Barkat also expressed the hope that the prime minister’s involvement will herald “a breakthrough in the crisis that will lead to the consolidation and development of Jerusalem.”