Barkat: Jerusalem is one of safest cities in the world

Day after tackling terrorist, mayor endorses Likud, denies he’s joining party

Benjamin Netanyahu and Nir Barkat (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Nir Barkat
“Do you feel secure walking the streets of Jerusalem?” Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky asked Mayor Nir Barkat with a smile during the opening of a Q&A session on the state of the capital before the organization’s board of governors Monday.
The line, referring to Barkat’s manhandling of a terrorist the previous day, drew raucous applause and served as a fitting icebreaker for the group of over 200 leaders, who gathered at the David Citadel Hotel to be briefed by Barkat on that very topic, among others.
Eschewing standard talking points, Barkat instead immediately took questions from the capacity crowd taking part in the agency’s three-day conference in the capital.
“It’s true that since last June we’ve had a lot of violence in the city,” the mayor replied to Sharansky’s quip.
Stating that the vast majority of rioting that engulfed the city last year was due to “teenagers who were not listening to their parents,” following the brutal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir and the war in Gaza, Barkat explained how the city recovered.
“We became aggressive,” he said, “very, very aggressive.”
“What we’ve done is, we’re really aggressive in pursuing the bad guys, and we will continue doing so with as much brute force as we can, just to make sure that they understand that being violent does not pay,” he continued.
Noting that the zero-tolerance stance was accompanied by a marked increase in investments in east Jerusalem’s infrastructure, including schools and community services, Barkat said the solution has been “investing in those kids that are at risk.”
“We want to give them a better future, which is dramatically improving their potential in life,” he said.
Barkat said that people may be surprised to hear that peaceful Arab community leaders and educators have suffered the brunt of the consequences brought on by the youth crime wave, which resulted in greater outreach to the municipality.
“Interestingly enough, the school principals, the community councils, the business people – the local leadership in the different Arab neighborhoods – have suffered more than the Jews, excluding the terror attacks,” he said. “And so we had much more cooperation than people think. So relatively quickly, we were able to calm down the situation.”
In terms of the numerous terrorist attacks that have rocked the city since the summer, Barkat said the government, police and IDF are collectively making it clear that “it’s a bad profession to be a terrorist in Israel because you don’t come out of it good.”
Stating that the capital’s murder rate is a fraction, per capita, of other major metropolitan centers throughout the world, including New York City, Los Angeles and Johannesburg, the mayor claimed that Jerusalem is “one of the safest cities in the world.”
“In fact, when I travel to New York, I pray to come back safely to Jerusalem,” he said to a chorus of laughter.
Earlier, announcing the Jerusalem Marathon, Barkat praised the prime minister but flatly denied reports he’s joining the Likud.
“No, I didn’t join [the] Likud,” he said. “I support Netanyahu.
We are partnering to build the city of Jerusalem, and I think he is the best prime minister for the State of Israel.”