Barkat explores Likud help ahead of J'lem election

City councilman considers possibility of forming joint list.

nir barkat 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
nir barkat 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Seeking the support of hawkish voters, Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat has discussed possible cooperation with the Likud in November's mayoral race. Barkat said Wednesday he had met with the new head of the Likud in Jerusalem, Mishael Ben-Ami, to examine working together ahead of the vote and possibly running together, "one way or the other," possible on a joint list. Barkat, a self-made hi-tech millionaire who is expected to face off for a second time against Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, said that while he intended to run on an apolitical list, he would welcome the support of the Likud, and of any another Zionist party. "We both expressed concern over the status quo in the city and the lack of leadership," Barkat said in a telephone interview. In the last municipal election, in June 2003, the Likud won only two seats on the 31-seat Jerusalem City Council, while the Labor Party did not gain a single seat. Likud spokeswoman Nilly Richman said Wednesday that only the party's recently appointed municipal committee was authorized to deliberate on the mayoral election. She said such a move was not expected anytime soon. Barkat has positioned himself rightward in the hawkish city over the last year, in an attempt to reach out to modern Orthodox and traditional voters. More than two years ago, Barkat joined the governing Kadima party, at a time when it was still popular, and was named head of Kadima's Jerusalem campaign headquarters. Over the last year, however, he has found himself increasingly at odds with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government on the future of Jerusalem. Recently, he has been at the forefront of a non-profit campaign opposing the division of Jerusalem in a peace agreement with the Palestinians, an idea which was floated by Vice Premier Haim Ramon, a close confidant of Olmert. Barkat has weighed quitting Kadima for months, to discourage party officials from any territorial concessions in the city. He has said talk of a future division of Jerusalem as part of a peace agreement posed an "existential threat" to the city's future. Recent public opinion polls have shown that if Lupolianski gets the nod from his rabbis to run again, he remains the front-runner in the race in a city where one-third of Jewish residents are haredi.