Run as you can

Will Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat run for another term?

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
With a nine-month countdown to the municipal elections, there is a lot of political activity going on, but the key question remains whether Mayor Nir Barkat is running for another term.
In an interview with In Jerusalem last November, Barkat said he would announce his plans by the end of the year. More than a month has elapsed since that deadline, but Barkat still hasn’t disclosed his intentions. A source close to him said this week that he believes that Barkat hasn’t decided yet. This may be true; Barkat recently said that right after the city’s 2018 budget is approved, he will take a week of vacation with his wife – the first in a long time – and make a decision away from the daily turmoil of his duties here.
On the national level, Barkat is an asset for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is not corrupt (a rare quality these days in the political arena) and he is considered loyal to Netanyahu, unlike some of the ministers who are eager to replace him.
“Barkat believes he is prime-minister material,” says one well-placed source, “but he has time and patience. He knows he needs to gain experience as a minister first.”
In the haredi sector, nothing has changed. Moshe Lion remains the candidate they will back. A bigger question is what the haredi sector actually is today. Will it split again, as in the previous two election campaigns, or will it unite – Lithuanians and hassidim alike, Ashkenazi and Sephardi haredim all together? Observers believe that there will be a split for the lists running for city council, but not in regard to the mayoral candidate.
“At least two men would like to run, but their chances of obtaining enough support are not realistic,” says the observer. “The sector would like to have a haredi mayor again, but they know that this is probably not going to happen, so Lion knows that he can rely on them.” Lion continues to say that he will run only if Barkat quits the local scene. Meanwhile he waits, but he is far from idle. He visits every local council and community center, takes part in every official ceremony and participates in any event worthy of attention – never neglecting to post on Facebook, so nobody forgets he is here. Moreover, he has recently begun to take part in the tumultuous meetings at the treasury on the issue of the city budget.
Yossi Havilio, Meir Turgeman (who officially announced his candidacy this week) and Avi Salman continue to make declarations and participate in activities in the same vein, but even they admit that none of this is the “real thing” until Barkat makes up his mind.
New names are floated on an almost daily basis. Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin were recently mentioned as possible candidates and both quickly denied any such intentions. Ditto MK David Amsalem, one of Barkat’s most bitter foes. Deputy Mayor Yossi Daitch (United Torah Judaism) has not denied his interest in the candidacy but has been cautious so far to emphasize that “nothing can be done until the rabbis decide, and they will not make any decision until after the High Holy Days,” says a haredi observer.
The city budget must be completed and approved by the end of March. Barkat, who cannot allow himself to leave the city without an approved budget, will have to take his vacation and decide right after that, in what will be the Passover season.