Op-Ed: Whither Jerusalem: Left or Right?
Our beloved, eternal and indivisible capital city is in danger.
While claiming to be in favor of a united and sovereign Jerusalem, over the last five years, Jerusalem’s current Mayor Nir Barkat has acted against these interests.
Barkat has allowed, and even promoted, the control of the extreme-Left over East Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Municipal Portfolio for East Jerusalem, the important position which decides Jerusalem policy over the predominantly Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city is, for the last mayoral term, in the hands of someone who openly and proudly claims to be a non-Zionist and hopes Israel will be a state of all its citizens, code words for the end of the Jewish State.
Meir Margalit, a prominent member of Meretz, was awarded this senior position 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 co-founder, Jeff Halper, has said “I think it is impossible to have a Jewish state.”
Margalit’s extreme positions are not just theoretical. In 2010, he and his Meretz co-councilors 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’.
A few months later, Barkat handed Margalit the important position of being responsible for East Jerusalem. For the last 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, he is part of an international network working to boycott our very state.
Barkat has always been on the Left of the political spectrum and, immediately after the Disengagement from Gaza 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 of 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 dramatically been reduced under the Barkat-Meretz alliance. While Barkat seemingly supports the removal of Jews from their legal homes, he seems far less sure about fulfilling the law and demolishing illegal homes in the Arab sector, providing encouragement for more and more illegal Arab building and further upsetting the already delicate demographic balance.
Furthermore, in 2011, during a speech at the National Defense College, Barkat suggested a plan to divide parts of Jerusalem and give them 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 Palestinian Authority and other extremist organizations which have gained a stronger foothold in the city in recent years.
In 2011, according to Ha’aretz, 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 which killed eight yeshiva students. 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 undergoing changes, which should be of deep concern to all those who care about our beloved sovereign city.
This is also seemingly why Meretz and Labor Party leader Shelley Yechimovich are strongly endorsing Barkat for another term. The Left is solidly behind him as well.
For there to be change in this policy, Jerusalem needs to be led by someone with strong roots in the National Camp.
The National Camp is solidly behind me, and has given me its strongest endorsement.
As one of my first acts as mayor, I will immediately strip Meretz of its control over East Jerusalem and give it 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 Palestinian Authority. Together we can make the sweeping changes necessary to maintain the unity of Jerusalem under full and unequivocal Israeli sovereignty.
This is the clear difference between Barkat and myself.
The writer is the Jerusalem mayoral candidate for Likud Beytenu and the former Chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority.
For Arutz Sheva's interview with incumbent Mayor Nir Barkat, click here.