Barkat sweeps 30 of 31 city councilors

Secular mayor has solid majority of 30 out of 31 councilors after Shas climbs aboard.

Barkat speaks to supporters 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Barkat speaks to supporters 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
In a major political feat, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has finalized his city council coalition with wall-to-wall support from all the major political parties in the city council, his spokesman announced late Sunday. The secular mayor's coalition, which includes Shas, makes good on Barkat's post-election pledge to try to create an all-encompassing coalition that will work toward the economic betterment of the city. The accord with Shas will allocate the Sephardi haredi party, which has four seats on the city council, the title of vice-mayor - a non-paying position - with the promise of receiving a deputy mayor post if Barkat can convince the government to increase the number of deputy mayors from six to eight. Shas, which will also receive responsibility for various municipal portfolios related to the haredi public, had previously demanded at least one deputy mayor in the city council. Barkat expressed satisfaction with the inclusion of both major haredi parties in his coalition. "What unites us is significantly greater than the differences [between us]," Barkat said in a statement. He added that his coalition would focus on meeting budgets, fundraising and reforms, and that it would do this by "channeling great energy into joint ventures to save Jerusalem, and not on internal disputes." Barkat has suggested he may ask the new government elected in February to increase the number of deputy Jerusalem mayors to as many as eight due to the number of city residents, although approval of such a controversial move is far from certain. The deputy mayor position includes a roughly NIS 40,000 monthly salary, a driver and all office expenses. Independent city councillor Meir Turgeman, a renegade from Barkat's party in the last municipality, will remain the sole member of the opposition. A day after his election, Barkat said that including the haredi parties in his coalition was "the right thing to do" for the city, and pledged to form a wall-to-wall city council coalition.