Mayor, MKs: J’lem needs more money

Allocation for capital has been steadily decreasing each year, from NIS 269 million in 2001 to NIS 185m. in 2010.

Nir Barkat 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Nir Barkat 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MKs from across the spectrum joined Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at the Knesset on Monday to help in his struggle to increase the special budget that the state allocates each year to Jerusalem.
The annual allocation is meant to help minimize the city’s debt, given Jerusalem’s unique position and needs.
This practice, called the Jerusalem Rule, was started in 2001. But because the amount of money is not predetermined, the mayor must ask the prime minister and the Finance Ministry every year for additional funds.
The allocation has been steadily decreasing each year, from NIS 269 million in 2001 to NIS 185m. in 2010. The city is requesting at least NIS 285m. for 2011.
The money from the Jerusalem Rule accounted for 12.8% of the municipal budget in 2001. In 2010, the funding accounted for only 5.1%.
More than 30 MKs came for part or all of Monday’s emergency meeting to express their support for the capital.
“It was testimony to what we know, that the public identifies with the future of a strong Jerusalem,” Barkat told The Jerusalem Post at the conclusion of the meeting.
“We’re concerned about the future of Jerusalem, which is also the soul of the Jewish people. It’s not just a matter for the residents... it’s a national thing,” he said, adding that he was heartened to see lawmakers from both coalition parties and the opposition in attendance.
Jerusalem is the poorest large city in the country.
While poverty has increased by 7% in the past decade, the government’s allocation has decreased by 30%, the municipality reported.
“Jerusalem is a place where everyone lives together – there are lots of Jews who are religious, lots of Jews who aren’t religious, and lots of Arabs, and if we can’t manage Jerusalem, we have no hope for the government to manage the country,” said MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), chairman of the Finance Committee.
State Control Committee chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima) echoed the need for special help. “Jerusalem is not like any other city, and it’s not just a symbol. You have to give preference to Jerusalem,” he said.
MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), the head of the coalition, said he would personally call on the prime minister and the finance minister to approve the additional funds.
“I promise to do everything that I can for Jerusalem’s sake,” he said. “If we all go together, we will succeed.”
The meeting was dominated by discussion over the lack of affordable housing in the city and the recent revelations of the “Palestinian Papers” by Al- Jazeera, including the reports that the Palestinian Authority had agreed in 2008 to relinquish its claim to Gilo, French Hill, Ramot and other, but not all, Jewish neighborhoods in the city’s east.
Last week, the municipality launched a public relations campaign called “We can’t lose Jerusalem,” aimed at convincing the government to increase funding for the city.
Barkat told the Post he was confident that the prime minister would support the city’s request.
“They cannot let us stand alone in our efforts to strengthen Jerusalem,” he said.