Jerusalem cannot handle another five years of left-wing policy

In J'lem, perhaps more than any other city in Israel, political outlook and worldview has a very great bearing on a mayor’s activities and decisions.

Israeli flag with Temple Mount background 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli flag with Temple Mount background 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Let’s start by acknowledging the facts. Both Jerusalem’s current mayor and myself care deeply about Jerusalem and want to do the job to the best of our ability. Having worked closely with Nir Barkat for the past five years, I can attest to his good intentions, and judging by the complimentary content of a letter he sent to the prime minister saying that he had “full faith” in me because of my “extraordinarily good work on behalf of the development of Jerusalem,” he can attest to mine.
However, apart from the reversal of the order of priorities for Jerusalem and its residents, meaning less champagne events costing tens of millions and more investment in education, sanitation, transportation and employment, the greatest differences between us are in our ideological outlooks.
In Jerusalem, perhaps more than any other city in Israel, political outlook and worldview has a very great bearing on a mayor’s activities and decisions.
Our beloved, eternal and indivisible capital city is in danger.
While claiming to be in favor of a united and sovereign Jerusalem, over the past five years, Jerusalem’s current mayor has acted against these interests. Unbeknown to most, the extreme Left has been allowed to gain control over east Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem municipal portfolio for east Jerusalem is in the hands of none other than Meir Margalit, a prominent member of Meretz, and was awarded to him by Barkat himself.
While his name may not be familiar to many, Margalit, who openly and proudly advocates a return to the pre- 1967 lines, is also a founder and leading member of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
ICAHD, funded heavily by the European Union, is a prominent member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the State of Israel, participating in anti-Israel events across the globe, accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide,” “collective punishment,” and “apartheid.” Furthermore, Margalit’s ICAHD cofounder, Jeff Halper, has said “I think it is impossible to have a Jewish state.”
Margalit’s extreme positions are not theoretical. In 2010, he and his Meretz cocouncilors signed a letter addressed to Adidas executives calling on them to withdraw their sponsorship of the Jerusalem Marathon because part of its route passed over the “Green Line.”
What was Barkat’s reaction to such a blatant attack on Israel’s sovereignty? A few months later, Barkat handed Margalit responsibility for east Jerusalem.
For the past few years, we have had the absurd situation of the mayor investing power in someone who not only rejects Israeli sovereignty in over half of the city, but is part of an international network working to boycott our state.
This might seem strange behavior for a mayor who tries to position himself as right wing. However, this is merely a political façade maintained to garner votes.
Barkat has always been on the Left of the political spectrum, and came as little surprise when, immediately after the Gaza Disengagement in 2005, Barkat, at the behest of Ehud Olmert and Omri Sharon, became the official Kadima representative in Jerusalem. While those expelled from Gush Katif were left homeless and unable to restart their lives, Barkat was busy lobbying on behalf of the party responsible for the Disengagement, claiming that “Kadima is a worthy party to lead the country at this time.”
It is this concessionist attitude which is creating facts on the ground in Jerusalem in a very worrying manner.
The number of demolitions of illegally built houses in east Jerusalem has been dramatically reduced under the Barkat-Meretz alliance. While Barkat seemingly supports the removal of Jews from their legal homes, he appears to be far less sure about upholding the law and demolishing illegal homes in the Arab sector, and thus provides encouragement for more and more illegal Arab building, further upsetting the already delicate demographic balance.
Furthermore, in 2011, during a speech at the National Defense College, Barkat suggested a plan to divide Jerusalem and give parts of it to the Palestinian Authority.
The plan was lauded by the extreme Left, and in particular by Oslo-architect Yossi Beilin, who wrote a whole article congratulating Barkat on coming clean on his views to divide Jerusalem.
Under Barkat’s tenure, the Arabs of east Jerusalem – who according to polls wish to remain under Israeli sovereignty – have become infiltrated by the PA and other extremist organizations, which have gained a stronger foothold in the city in recent years.
In 2011, according to Haaretz, Barkat met with a group of radical Islamists dedicated to Israel’s destruction, including the brother of a terrorist involved in the Mercaz HaRav massacre in which eight yeshiva students were killed. This was against the advice of the Shin Bet and the Jerusalem Police, who made their concerns known to Barkat’s office before the meeting.
These are just some of the many ways in which Jerusalem is being changed, a situation which should be of deep concern to all those who care about our beloved capital city.
This is also seemingly why Meretz, and Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, are strongly endorsing Barkat for another term.
For there to be change in this policy, Jerusalem needs to be led by someone with strong roots in the national camp, which is solidly behind me and has given me its strongest endorsement.
I know what needs to be done to return Jerusalem from the dangerous course it has taken in the last five years.
This is why, as one of my first acts as mayor, I will immediately strip Meretz of its control over east Jerusalem and give that portfolio to someone with a clear Zionist vision, who has no qualms about Israel’s control over every inch of Jerusalem. I will not give power to those who want to relinquish Jerusalem, meet with terrorist sympathizers or talk about conceding land in our capital city to the PA.
This is the clear difference between Barkat and myself.
The choice is clear: vote for Barkat and his Meretz partners, and another five years of the creeping disengagement from Jerusalem, or together we can make the sweeping changes necessary to maintain the unity of Jerusalem under full and unequivocal Israeli sovereignty.
The writer is the Jerusalem mayoral candidate for Likud Beytenu and the former chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority.