Barkat: Status quo key variable to coexistence and growth in Jerusalem

Jerusalem mayor says at Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference that capital must remain a untied city and never be divided.

Nir Barkat speaks at JPost Diplomatic Conference (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Nir Barkat speaks at JPost Diplomatic Conference
“There’s a very famous phrase that we maintain in the city of Jerusalem,” the capital’s mayor, Nir Barkat, said at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference Thursday morning. “It’s called “status quo.”
“Status quo is not a little thing,” he continued. “It is being responsible for coexistence in a city where many, many opinions and perceptions are part of our democracy.”
Barkat, one of the country’s many political luminaries to speak at the event in the capital’s David Citadel Hotel, emphasized the critical role the status quo plays with respect to maintaining peace in the city and advancing economic growth.
“There is a status quo maintained between religious and secular, between Christians and Jews, between Muslims and Jews, between Muslims and Christians,” he said, noting that he regularly receives challenges to alter it.
“But for us to live together in a meaningful way, we are, and we will, maintain the status quo, and if you come respecting the status quo and working within the status quo, there is a green light to anything you want to do in the city.”
Barkat went on to praise the economic trajectory he said Jerusalem is on under his administration, stating that over NIS 30 billion is being invested in it over the next 10 years by the government.
The mayor cited his master plan for further developing the city, saying that the capital’s budget has grown by more than 10 percent annually over the last six years, and that he intends to build 50,000 apartments over the next decade.
“We will double the number of hotel rooms, we will add over 150,000 to 200,000 new jobs...
triple the number of employees in the hi-tech sector, and triple the amount of new companies,” he added.
Moreover, the high-speed train to Tel Aviv will be completed by 2018 and three additional light-rail lines will be completed within the next 10 years, he said.
With respect to education, Barkat said he intends to build 2,000 more classrooms over the next five years.
Conceding the challenges the city has faced over the past six months, the mayor said the capital is now turning a corner through aggressive policing in once chronically violent Arab neighborhoods.
“We’ve been working with the national government and the police to restore law and order in areas where the police seldom visited,” he said. “But...
I know already that the things we’ve been doing in Arab neighborhoods where violence occurred has created a significant decrease in violence since we took action and responsibility.”
Noting that the majority of violent crime is carried out by Arab minors, Barkat maintained that apart from the heightened police presence throughout east Jerusalem, getting potentially violent kids back to school over the past few weeks has been essential to restoring calm.
Meanwhile, despite the city’s many challenges, Barkat said Jerusalem remains a beacon of hope amid “countries that are falling apart.”
“There is an island of sanity in the Middle East called Israel,” he said. “And within it the crown jewel: The city of Jerusalem.”