Corridors of Power: The French Connection

This column tries to be Jerusalemites' eyes and ears, to provide them with some insights and knowledge about the doings (and especially the wrongdoings) of the people in charge of our money and our general well-being as residents. So most of the time, critiques of the people holding the reins of power are harsh, though - we hope - fair and balanced. But once in a while, it is this journalist's duty to express sympathy, support and even to congratulate the mayor for a right decision. Do not worry, there is ground for hope that we shall soon have new occasions to resume our critical tone. Last week, Mayor Uri Lupolianski hosted Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe. Delanoe, a high-ranking member of France's Socialist Party, is considered a serious candidate for their next presidential elections. Delanoe is also a great admirer of Israel, and didn't hesitate to tell a group of French journalists that his love of Jerusalem and his friendship with Lupolianski mattered more to him than the usual political games: Not only does France not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he was also here on Jerusalem Day. Asked if he were not concerned that his official visit to inaugurate the new fountain, a gift from Paris's City Hall, on that particular day might damage France's image in the eyes of the Palestinians, Delanoe answered without a blink that his friendship with Israel and the Israelis was important and that he wasn't used to hiding his friendships for political reasons. One would assume that considering these facts, Lupolianski's local opponents would have understood that in this particular case, our mayor couldn't possibly refuse to host Delanoe at the fountain ceremony just because, technically, the city council didn't have the time to approve the budget for the entire renovation of Paris Square, where the fountain has been placed. Lupolianski decided - lucky us - to host the Parisian mayor, assuming that the project, which has already been included in the municipality's working program of this year, would certainly be budgeted. Just imagine the results if Lupolianski's answer to Delanoe had been something like "Dear Bertrand, come back in a month or two. Once this technical issue is settled, I'll have the time to take care of you and your fountain." Oh la la! Thank you Uri, for making the right decision this time! JERUSALEM IS not only a city of gold and light - it seems it has become a real business: for years, the Jerusalem Foundation, created 42 years ago by Teddy Kollek, has funded many of the city's projects. Former mayor Ehud Olmert didn't get along with its president, Ruth Cheshin, and created his own local fund, the New Jerusalem Foundation. During his time as mayor, his foundation managed to raise some money, though it never reached the achievements of the Jerusalem Foundation. Lately, though, its position has worsened - so much so that it is seriously considering seeking funding in Israel and renouncing the increasingly difficult task of raising money abroad. One of its last failures was the Bridge of Strings. Meanwhile, other projects are still waiting. Recently, sources inside the foundation admitted that the fund-raising policy should be a more aggressive one and proposed "selling" public locations to donors: a bridge for $10 million, a square for $5m. Officially, donations are still rolling in and justify the existence in the city of two foundations with the same purpose. Unofficially, both in City Hall and in the new foundation, there are talks about the urgent need to end this situation. "If they start to sell the city for plaques with donors' names," said a source inside the municipality, "there is little chance someone will have the courage to make the right decision, but it is becoming more than embarrassing." Attorney Yehudah Raveh, chairman of the board of the New Jerusalem Foundation, responded that "there is nothing unusual about selling squares and bridges to donors - it is done all over the world and it is an excellent way to raise money." Raveh added that there was no plan to unite the two foundations, "since we employ only four people so the saving wouldn't be significant."