Last Friday the world held its breath. Outraged Palestinians threw stones at the elite police troops, and war almost waged upon a tiny bridge.
By PEGGY CIDOR
Last Friday the world - or at least a bunch of foreign reporters and photographers - held their breath. Outraged Palestinians threw stones at the elite police troops, an (almost) war waged upon a tiny bridge, and immediately the local conflict was a leading international news item.
The fact was that on the ground, things seemed a little - how should I put it? - staged. Each party knew its part and no one messed up: The media were there with all their recording equipment and cameras. The police representatives were all present, including Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi and all the bosses. The Palestinians up above on the Temple Mount and the muezzin, who hardly issued a call to prayer because he was busy preaching for all the Muslims to come and save Al Aksa, did their part too. Even the Jewish worshippers by the Western Wall seemed to take part, though some of them seemed not quite sure about the appropriate attitude. Time to run home? Or to stick around there for an additional prayer?
About an hour later, everything was (almost) back to normal. At the little kiosk opposite the Dung Gate, the shop owner put it this way: "It's all a game. The police show they are doing their job well and now they will ask for a bigger budget. The media have a story to sell, the politicians on both sides can say they are doing something and only we, the people who suffer, pay the real price. Just imagine that someone were killed? I refuse to believe there was no other way to solve this issue."
Well, there was another way. Here it comes:
It took our mayor no more than three days to become a savior, well, kind of. On Monday morning the Israeli press - and the rest of the world - met a new Uri Lupolianski: He was transformed from the local haredi mayor who fought the gay pride parade into an international leader, who demonstrated what leadership is about. He decided to stop the work on the site, arguing that it needed - like any other building project - a permit from the Construction and Planning Committee . The decision was made late Sunday night and released the following morning.
This column doesn't dare to question the mayor's real intentions. On the contrary, this journalist has been convinced for a long time that men and women of faith have the best tools to create peace in the Middle East, and elsewhere too. Nor do we dislike the idea that our mayor will benefit from the international fame following his move, which will enable a peaceful solution where all others have failed. We do have our share of local patriotism.
It's just that...well, the mayor's decision doesn't really fit in with the facts on the ground. According to the municipality's attorney, good old Yossi Havilio, there is no need for a plan for the Mughrabi Gate bridge, since the intention is to build a new bridge that is the same as the previous one. So Lupolianski's decision that a new plan is to be presented to the committee is surprising at the very least, not to mention that a plan is very expensive, and it's not clear who's going to pay for it. You? Me? (Probably both.)
This decision might also become a precedent. Until now, citizens didn't have to present plans for a new structure that was similar to the existing one. Does it mean that from now on, anyone who wants to rebuild a shaky balcony - exactly the same size and location - will have to pay an architect, present a plan and wait until someone presents his opposition? Officials at Kikar Safra say that this is exactly what Lupolianski's courageous decision means. Oops!!
And let's face it: The foreign media didn't deliver the goods. At least in the European press, Lupolianski is still not the new Rudy Giuliani. The comments in the foreign media are something like: "If it's so simple, why didn't the Israelis think of it earlier?"
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