Where they stand

MKs outline their positions on Jerusalem at events organized by Ir Amim and Yesh Atid.

A stormy pre-election encounter organized by Ir Amim. (photo credit: SHMUEL COHEN)
A stormy pre-election encounter organized by Ir Amim.
(photo credit: SHMUEL COHEN)
The idea was not a novelty – encounters at a bar between journalists and candidates are par for the course in any electoral campaign. Yet this past Sunday, despite the cold and rain, the large hall of the downtown Burla Pub was packed with Jerusalemites who wanted to hear what the representatives of five of the largest parties had to say about the future of the city.
The event was organized by Ir Amim, an NGO that aims to promote an “equitable and stable Jerusalem with an agreed political future.” At the bar sat, in a row, candidates Mossi Raz (Meretz), Anat Berko (Likud), Hilik Bar (Labor), Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) and Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash).
They were first asked about their feelings on the last two decades of tragic events in the capital – in response to which Touma-Sliman declared that she refused to fall in the trap of “feelings” and chose to focus on the ongoing occupation of her people and the abnormality of the situation.
When the matter of Jerusalem’s status arose – whether it should be unified or separated, and what should be done with the holy sites – the responses were unsurprising. Raz’s position was close to Touma-Sliman’s, that Jerusalem should be separated into two capitals, with the Western Wall for the Jews and the Temple Mount for the Palestinians.
Berko and Levy adamantly refused any partition, and Bar suggested partitioning the city in two, but arranging an “extraterritorial” solution for the holy sites, which would be under the administration of religious authorities.
The public was attentive, until one of the audience members, who was apparently already known to the organizers, yelled at Levy and Bar, accusing them of mistreating Touma-Sliman, and ended with a nasty curse toward Levy. It was unclear whom the man represented, but Levy, in turn, got to his feet and declared he was not going to remain there and listen to such remarks. Despite attempts by the organizers and some of the public to dissuade him, Levy left, followed immediately by Berko – a move that caused anger and disappointment among the attendees.
“This was no less than an act of violence, of disdain toward the public, as if these two came just to pour their ideas on us and go somewhere else,” said Julie, an audience member who said she had come all the way from Haifa to hear the candidates.
About an hour later, Levy welcomed the local activists of his party at the entrance to Cinema City’s Hall No. 1, where Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid stood on stage and spoke for more than an hour to an almost full room. Lapid ran through a list of his achievements during his tenure at the treasury. Though he gave the impression that had the prime minister not fired him (by phone, as Lapid recounted), Israelis would have felt an improvement by now in terms of the cost-of-living index, the cost of housing and the level of education, not everyone in the crowd seemed convinced.
As for Jerusalem’s fate, he advocated not dividing the city. On the subject of the Palestinians, Lapid said that his only complaint was that the West Bank security barrier was “not high enough” – a remark that drew loud applause from practically everyone in attendance.