Jerusalem Mayor on Unity: Cranes Mean Sovereignty, Success
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat told Arutz Sheva on Thursday that he sees cranes in Jerusalem as a sign of success - and sovreignty.
"We are on a path of success," Barkat said. "We see it in several respects, including growth and development. This skyline is full of cranes. "Anyone who comes and sees this, sees that something good is happening in the city - Jerusalm is succeeding."
"Sovereignty cannot stay on paper," he declares, "Anyone who thinks that if you just declare sovereignty you have resolved the problem is wrong."
"There is a direct relationship between development in the urban neighborhoods and sovereignty," he said. "You must enforce zoning and construction laws, collects taxes, improve schools, talk with the people and solve problems - that is sovereignty."
Barkat told Arutz Sheva that illegal construction could only be tackled if Israel took responsibility for Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods.
"You have to understand where illegal construction comes from," Barkat said. "We have Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which, unfortunately, are badly neglected. As mayor, visiting these areas, I was forced to ask why this is?"
"We have two bad alternatives: one, we can act like an ostrich; the other, to accept a huge disparity between the quality of life in these neighborhoods, and other neighborhoods, which should not be.
"I choose a third option," Barkat said. "I chose to take responsibility and extend my office's sovereignty to these neighborhoods, to improve the quality of life in them, and increase investment there."
The move to improve the quality of life in eastern Jerusalem is not without political implications.
"It's not a controversial idea, but right-wingers are more supportive of this process than the left, because they understand that investments in East Jerusalem are a means of applying Israel's sovereignty," Barkat said.
"The left thinks differently about the city's theme of unity," he went on. "They do not realize that ideology and practice must go hand in hand. There is no chance that Jerusalem will succeed if she is divided again."
"So we have to insist on the unity of the city. For the right, improving the quality of life in eastern Jerusalem jives with both practice and ideology. For the left, it jives with practice, but ideologically it is problematic. I'm not sure they want it."
Interestingly, Barkat says some of his strongest supporters are Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem.
"They have lot of respect," Barkat said. "They know I care about them and know their quality of life will rise. This is important to all of us. Additionally, they are increasingly satisfied with the city and recognize my office's sovereignty in Jerusalem."
"This leads to a situation where they themselves would prefer to keep Jerusalem united because they see the results of our efforts and they understand progress.
"Its not Zionism, but in practice, they know it is important to continue to live under Israeli sovereignty," Barkat explained.
However, the primary impediment to Barkat's goals for Jerusalem is not the political left, or Arabs in the city, but Israel's own security establishment.
"Unfortunately, whoever gave a 'waiver' for permits in eastern Jerusalem- and his reasoning was probably due to security considerations - did not take into account how dividing Jerusalem with a fence [the security wall] would affect Israel sovereignty," Birkat said.
"I have not ignored the issue," he said. "I have raised it again and again at the political level, but the tools available to the Jerusalem Municipality to alter security policy is limited.
"This difficulty is very real. I keep telling the government we must be allowed to exercise sovereignty in neighborhoods beyond the security wall. But, this problem persists."