Mayor of Jerusalem Barkat axes councilman over opposition to expansion of Arab neighborhood

Former Jerusalem municipality coalition member Arieh King calls mayor a ‘leftist,’ files petition against decision.

Nir Barkat
Two days after voicing pronounced discontent and filing a petition against the Jerusalem Municipality for approving a sprawling expansion of an east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood, on Friday right-wing councilman Arieh King (United Jerusalem) was dismissed.
The conflict came to the fore on Wednesday, shortly after the capital’s Local Planning and Construction Committee approved a large-scale development plan for the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood, featuring 2,200 housing units and 130 hectares for additional infrastructure.
Upon announcing the approval, Barkat issued a statement claiming it would “strengthen Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem” by curbing rampant illegal construction and upgrading the standard of living in the Arab neighborhood.
However, King alleged the plan “was put forward by the leftists to establish their own demographic balance in the city, and link Area B to the downtown area… without discussing the issue with the city council.”
Moreover, despite Barkat’s longstanding stance against city council members filing petitions against the municipality, King filed the petition against the Local Building and Planning Committee, the municipality, and Barkat at Jerusalem District Court Wednesday.
In a letter to King on Friday, Barkat’s response was swift and unequivocal.
“A coalition member cannot have his cake and eat it, too,” the mayor wrote. “Coalition members can’t do conflicting things by both being part of the coalition that outlines the municipal policy and its actions, and also attacking the municipality in petitions to the courts.”
In response to his termination, King accused Barkat of being a “member of the leftist camp, who strives for a de facto division of Jerusalem, and works against the interest of the Jewish people in Jerusalem.”
“Barkat unfortunately tries to act like a member of the right-wing, smiling and embracing rabbis and right-wingers, but he is someone who endangers the future of Jerusalem as a unified Jewish city,” King said.
On his Facebook page, the ousted councilman called on right-wing leaders, including Economics Minister and Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), to sever ties with the mayor.
An outspoken and polarizing figure, the British-born King, who won two seats in last year’s municipal elections, was denounced by the left as racist for stating during his campaign that he will “Jewify east Jerusalem.”
This is not the first time King has challenged Barkat’s right-wing credentials. For years, he stated that despite the mayor’s affirmations that the capital must be united under Israeli sovereignty, he did not “deliver the goods.”
King has also accused Barkat of being a “dangerous leftist activist” ready to give up Jewish sovereignty over the Old City and its surroundings.
Barkat has held a longstanding policy of forbidding coalition members from filing petitions against the municipality.
King was the chairman of the Environment Committee, Deputy Chairperson of the Emergency and Security Committee, and a member on the regional Planning and Building Committee.