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sheetrit 298.88.(Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
Corridors of Power: Open doors and closed streets
Will MK Meir Sheetrit revive the Safdie Plan?
Next Thursday, it will be business as usual again at City Hall as the city council meetings resume after a long summer and holiday break. The main issue that will be raised by the opposition is, of course, the recent discussion of Jerusalem's future status. And Mayor Uri Lupolianski's recent statement - a rare political proclamation - that Jerusalem should never be divided again, will certainly provide memorable debate between the Right and Left at Kikar Safra. This week, Corridors takes a short walk across Jerusalem, weaving through the capital's streets, which have become a nightmare of never-ending construction, to the Knesset's corridors. This is not a story of friendship and collaboration, but rather of struggles behind the scenes, with a large dose of politics and vested interests. And lest some readers, out of sheer naivete, think we're talking about residents' interests, let's be clear: We're not. As we all realize, the light rail is running late. Not the train itself, but its infrastructure. The light rail was originally planned to be completed by the end of 2007 and was then postponed to mid-2008. It was then pushed off to the beginning of 2009 and now those involved admit that we might well step into 2010. The reasons are variable - from the incompatibility of the Appitrack (the machine brought especially from France to lay the tracks in a very short time, which turned out to be unfit for Jerusalem's climate) to financial issues. Now the government and the investors have reached an agreement: Both sides will invest more money to finish the project as soon as possible. In the Knesset, the expectation was that Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski would be happy about this decision. But according to reliable sources in the Transportation and Interior ministries, Lupolianski has instead announced that either the work will be completed within a couple of months (mission impossible) or construction will be stalled (until after November 2008) to offer residents some much-needed respite from the road-work nightmares. In the mayor's circle, everyone understands that there is no way Lupolianski will be cutting the ribbon before next November's municipal election, which means that he is going to have a hard time convincing residents that he is the best man for the job, especially when he is considered responsible for this light rail mess! And there is more. Remember Lupolianski's decision to oppose the Safdie Plan? His courageous decision won him a lot of support, especially from non-haredim, who appreciated, rightfully, his opposition to such an anti-environmental project. Well, not everyone applauded him for his decision. MK Meir Sheetrit was not enthusiastic about it, to say the least. Since then, Sheetrit has become interior minister and has made it clear that as far as he is concerned - and he is - the Safdie Plan is not dead. So if Sheetrit manages to revive the plan, the mayor is going to lose some crucial support. Considering that Lupolianski might not be the only haredi candidate in the running (Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack revealed to In Jerusalem earlier this month that he will likely be running), every vote will count, especially those of the non-haredi public, like environment supporters and drivers who navigate Jerusalem's roads. Oops!
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