Time for report cards

Internal disputes and lack of solidarity plague Jerusalem's city council.

The last city council meeting, which took place nearly two weeks ago, prompted this column to consider the achievements and failures of each of the parties represented in the council. The city council is composed of seven parties. Four of them are part of the coalition: United Torah Judaism, Shas, National Religious Party (NRP), and the Likud. Three are in the opposition: Meretz, Shinui (or what's left of it) and Nir Barkat's Jerusalem Will Succeed. In addition to their oft-professed love for the city, the coalition and the opposition share at least one more thing in common: internal disputes and lack of solidarity. Dear readers, would you like a few examples? On at least two occasions, two of the mayor's deputies from his own party - Rabbi Yehoshua Pollak and Rabbi Uri Maklev - have hinted that they intend to present their candidacy for their boss's job. The situation in neighboring Shas is even worse. The head of the Shas list, Shlomi Atias, barely talks to his fellow party member, Eli Simhayoff, whom he suspects has tattled on him to their revered mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. And both of them are weary of Shmuel Itzhaki, who accuses them of betraying the needs of their community in return for a convenient salary (which is about NIS 45,000). Over at the NRP - the only religious party with a woman on the council - three out of the four members pay more attention to opposing allocations to Palestinians and suspected left-wing cultural events than they do their own constituency's needs. "Issues like the outrageous fees that we have to pay for national religious education doesn't grab their attention at all," the parents' association has complained on numerous occasions. Now on to the Likud. The two representatives are very careful not to get in each other's way. By studiously not speaking to each other, they avoid embarrassing situations. But all this is really small-scale compared to the opposition. Let us begin with Shinui. Two of these members simply ignore each other, too. In Meretz, Pepe Allalu and Sa'ar Netanel both watch their backs very carefully, each convinced that the other "is doing things against me." And both of them harshly criticize Raly Ben-David and suspect that she is trying to snuggle up to mayor Uri Lupolianski's coalition. Most recently, Ben-David refused to back the opposition's support for the municipality's legal adviser, Yossi Havilio - yet another point of friction. And last but not least, Nir Barkat's promise that "Jerusalem Will Succeed." Right now, they're succeeding in going off in different directions. Meir Tourjeman reportedly wants to join the coalition and is leading the campaign against Havilio. Twice, Avi Kostelitz and Ruth Ralberg voted with the coalition to support the budget - "We think independently," they declared. They have also denounced Barkat's decision to join the Kadima Party and continue to refuse to cooperate or coordinate with him. Lydia Balitzky' s position is not clear, but in general, she does seem loyal to Barkat. Rami Levi's position isn't clear, either, but at this time, in general, he seems loyal to himself. And Barkat? Following his inability to lead the opposition, he has created a Web site, inviting citizens to complain about dirty sites in the city. A few weeks ago, he managed to convince Shalom Quiler, director of the Baka Community Center, to join him in a promotional project to clean up the streets in Baka and Talpiot. His message - "I'm doing what the mayor is failing to do" - almost came across, until the head of the Company for Community Centers sent Quiler a reminder that "the community centers are a municipal subsidiary company." The chairman of that company is... Uri Lupolianski. Last week, Kobi Cohen, the chairman of the Forum of Community Centers, dispatched a letter to Barkat (which was also dispatched immediately to the press as well), bluntly asking him "not to build his political career on the back of the community centers." Barkat, who in part based his campaign on cooperation with the community centers, will have to think this one through. Meanwhile, he didn't attend the last city council meeting. As a member of Lupolianski's party concluded, "With opposition like this, it's no wonder the mayor hasn't lost his famous smile."