Corridors of Power: Musical chairs

It started with a short, embarrassing moment and continued with the usual disdain for people's time: At the first assembly of the city council after the split in Nir Barkat's party, the defectors discovered that they were still seated together, despite their explicit request to be separated. A municipal employee arrived a few minutes later and moved the badges with their names to another part of the table. Meretz city council member Sa'ar Netanel couldn't refrain from asking if it was "kindergarden time." "We didn't make a fuss of it," said Ruth Ralbag, one of the three defectors. She was just a little bit annoyed. After all, what's the point of splitting from your party if you are again seated beside your ex-ally? The meeting was postponed from 6:30 p.m to 7:30 p.m. and Ralbag had abruptly ended a meeting at her office to arrive on time. Really no big deal, just the usual contempt for others' time. Then a few minutes after 7:30 p.m (at 7:44 if you really want to know) the show began. There had been some rumors regarding this session: That lots of citizens would come to protest, and that one of the items on the agenda could be explosive. Guess what, the rumors were true. The hall was full and dozens of citizens were not allowed in for lack of room, and those inside decided to protest their absence aloud, notwithstanding the rules against overcrowding. Two major issues were on the agenda: The extra payments to the mayor's private attorney (which total more than NIS 500,000), and the change requested in commission nominations as a result of the split in Barkat's party. The main nomination was for the head of the comptroller's committee. What happened was more like a pagan ceremony: Pepe Allalu, though unanimously esteemed by his peers, coalition and opposition, was sacrificed on the altar of realpolitik and lost the prestigious job to city council member Meir Turgeman. A short while before, an impressive speech by city council member Lydia Balitzki (from Barkat's list) gave voice to the problems of part of the Russian immigrant community in Jerusalem. "These people are not needy, Mr. Mayor," she declared, "They are working and tax-paying citizens, and they deserve your attention and respect. How can it work with the fact that at the absorption department in the municipality there isn't even one Russian-speaking employee?" Mayor Lupolianski couldn't stay indifferent to that voice: despite the volume of the olim representatives in the hall (who were hushed time and again by the guards), his answer was indeed respectful: He proposed a special meeting within two weeks (a very short time in terms of Kikar Safra) with Bilitzki and the heads of the absorption department to find solutions to some of the problems.