Corridors of Power: Welcome to the ga-ga-sphere

While radically changing their positions on illegal construction in Arab neighborhoods, city councillors are dancing around the issues.

barkat view of walls 248 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
barkat view of walls 248 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A few years ago Ohad Naharin, artistic director of the Batsheva dance company, invented a new step: the ga-ga. "It's more than a new dance language," explained his PR company. "It's a new way of expressing things way beyond dance or art in general. It takes you from one familiar situation to a totally new world of sensations and feelings. Once you've experienced ga-ga, you won't be the same anymore."
So I went to a performance to check it out. Not being familiar with the dance scene, I came out of the theater a completely different person: A dancer - a regular human being like you and me - was performing all kinds of movements that didn't adhere to the laws of physics. And when it was over, there wasn't a part of my body that didn't ache from just watching the formidable contortions and seemingly impossible movements of the dance.
The ga-ga awareness hasn't yet reached Kikar Safra, but it seems that its spirit is there, or at least our city councillors have their own ways of making sure that nothing is the same anymore. In their case, the equivalent of the dance performance was simply... the elections. At least for some of them. By the way, the ga-ga syndrome seems to be typical behavior for politicians - their habit of suddenly making a radical change of position on essential matters. Or in other words, ga-ga has affected, in some cases, their supporting decisions they valiantly opposed under the previous mayor.
Take for example the issue of external legal consultation, specifically regarding the issue of illegal construction by Jews and Arabs in east Jerusalem. Faithful readers of "Corridors" certainly remember the incredible amount of tension and conflict when former mayor Uri Lupolianski tried to bypass city attorney Yossi Havilio and hire a private attorney in order to obtain more palatable legal advice.
Pandemonium was raised by opposition members, mostly from Meretz and Shinui (of not-so-blessed memory), Nir Barkat's party Jerusalem Will Succeed and even the three rebels who split from his party. The city councillors took Lupolianski to court, forcing him to pay legal costs out of his own pocket. Since those past heroic days, ga-ga has come into effect, and today the large coalition is united in supporting Barkat's decision to overlook Havilio's legal advice by hiring an outside private attorney, who writes legal decisions finely tuned to the mayor's position.
One of the results, and no less ironic, is that the haredi city councillors are the only ones who are consistent - they reject, as in the past, Havilio's legal advice. My guess is that the representatives of Shas and United Torah Judaism probably do not practice ga-ga - or any dancing at all.
A quick glimpse at the current situation gives us the following picture: On one side, we have Mayor Barkat, who has never concealed his commitment to a unified city and Jewish residents in Arab neighborhoods. In Barkat's party there is at least one member of the Labor Party, Hilik Bar, who has never uttered a word against Ateret Cohanim or Elad (two right-wing organizations that encourage Jews to buy apartments in Arab neighborhoods). Meretz, a proud member of the coalition, is torn between its leader Pepe Alalo, who is against illegal construction by Jews, and its two other members, Meir Margalit and Laura Wharton, who are against the Jews who live in these neighborhoods. But Margalit is in favor of the mayor's plan to give - in return for the abolition of the demolition order of one of the Jewish residents' illegal constructions - a posteriori approval to illegal structures in Silwan belonging to Palestinians.
As in the previous coalition, the Habayit Hayehudi members remain silent. They too have probably never heard of the wonders of ga-ga.
For Elisha Peleg, the one-man show representing the Likud at city hall, things are even easier: He was not a member of the former city council, and he is an avid supporter of the Jewish residents anyway. He didn't need to practice ga-ga to support the mayor's decision, it's just that he doesn't support the mayor, since he accuses him of not supporting the Jewish residents. Perhaps he should try some ga-ga after all.
Lost in the ga-ga-sphere? You ain't seen nothing yet! Here it comes: Veteran city council member Meir Turgeman, a.k.a. the sole opposition member, was one of Havilio's fiercest opponents. Today, he is his most vociferous supporter. Not because he is against the Jewish residents. And not because he wants to legalize Arab illegal construction. Officially because he is against the mayor.
A few years ago, Turgeman told this journalist that he appreciated modern ballet. He didn't say anything about ga-ga specifically, but who knows?