Taking initiative... again

Barkat is head of the city council opposition, and a candidate for the next elections. Could this be why he was not invited to join the economic task force?

One of the highlights of the celebrations surrounding the 40th anniversary of Jerusalem's reunification was… no, not the torrential rain that caused many of last week's events to be canceled, although that was a contender. According to Kikar Safra, the big highlight was Mayor Uri Lupolianski's decision to create a task force of businessmen, headed by Lev Leviev, to invest and develop the capital's economy. Basically, it is hoped that the task force, comprising a who's who of Israel's business community, will form a think tank that will ultimately come up with a detailed plan to save Jerusalem's economy. Since Jerusalem is repeatedly claimed to be the poorest city in Israel and something has to be done, the idea is that those who have "made it" will contribute their experience and connections to help the city. Indeed a brilliant idea. The setting for the dramatic declaration was carefully chosen - the City of David excavation site, and the names were more than promising. True, this city has very few big businessmen. But we do have some, including Nir Barkat. But Barkat is also head of the city council opposition, and a candidate for the next elections. Could this be why he was not invited to join the task force? Two years ago, a very similar initiative was announced. True, it was with much less fanfare, and even less impact, since nothing came out of it. So here we are again in a deja-vu situation. Who knows, maybe this time it will work. Last week, the municipality organized a festive city council meeting to celebrate the 40th anniversary. The main idea was to gather former and current members of the city council, and to dedicate the meeting to the unified city. But according to some city council members, while the idea was good, the result was a failure. Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ya'acov Edri didn't attend (sources at his ministry say he was invited at the last minute) and about half of the city council members didn't show up. And the ceremony itself, according to Meretz party members Pepe Allalo and Sa'ar Netanel, seemed more like a religious ceremony than a pluralistic city council meeting. "There were prayers, a [performance by a] religious boys' choir and then we all received flowers for the occasion, distributed by carefully segregated children: Boys for the men and girls for the women. It was outrageous," reports Allalo,, "As if there are no secular people anymore in this city and [Mayor Uri] Lupolianski didn't promise four years ago that he would be a mayor for all citizens."