Arieh King wants more Jewish residents to move to neighborhoods that are historically Jewish but in modern times have a predominantly Arab population. For years he has headed the Israel Land Fund which supports legal measures to return absentee property to Jewish hands. Now he is running with the Yerushalayim Meuhedet or United Jerusalem for city council. King leads the Outlying Neighborhoods List which teamed up with United Jerusalem for the elections. In an interview with Israel National Radio, he discussed his plans for the future of the capital city.
To download the podcast interview click here.
On one hand, King has been complaining about Jewish-Arab tensions, such as the loud Muslim muezzin speakers which broadcast a prayer call at dawn or harassment in local parks. But on the other hand he wants to help revitalize and gentrify Arab neighborhoods.
Statistics show that Arab Jerusalemites usually do not vote in the municipal elections, King says, but adds that "the ones that know me personally will vote for me." He says that during Ramadan Arab residents came to him to deal with crowd control issues. "Other parties don't want to invest in east Jerusalem. The roads in east Jerusalem and the street lights, traffic lights, cleanliness, garbage disposal, etc., it's like it's been frozen since 1967," King stated. As a resident of Maale Hazeitim, he comes into daily contact with Arab residents. The community, located adjacent to the Mount of Olives, Judaism's oldest cemetery, is next to Ras Al Amud, an almost solidly Arab area that has its share of Hamas operatives.
"We want to equalize the east to west and hope it will be easier to convince more Jews to move to these neighborhood," he said and called for the municipality to budget projects to make it happen.
When asked whether his plan is not strikingly similar to that proposed by such groups that advocate a two-state solution in the name of peace and equality, he adamantly disagrees.
"They want to divide the city and give eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. They don't want to invest because it would be a waste of money [in light of an Israeli-PA final status agreement. We believe the opposite. We want to keep it under Israeli sovereignty," King explains. "So, yes, our party will help Arabs in east Jerusalem. But I don't care who lives in east Jerusalem. If Arabs live there, then they will benefit. If Jews live there, then Jews will benefit. But we need to continue to invest and improve."
One thing that has been bringing diverse communities together is the light rail train system. King called for new lines to be expanded to the Atarot industrial zone and up to the junction of Adam, just beyond the northern edge of the city and into Samaria.
Another project that connects diverse residents is the bicycle path built along the old train tracks. It begins at the remodeled First Station and will eventually go to the new basketball stadium now in the process of being built. King is skeptical about the direction the current administration is going in terms of the new large projects. "The basketball arena cost a quarter of a billion shekels," King stated, "That comes from the taxpayer and it's a big number for a city where 38 percent of the residents live under the poverty line. If you concentrate on basketball arenas and the like while poverty keeps growing, then there is a crucial mistake in prioritization of the budget," King lamented. "
I am not saying we don't need a basketball stadium or bicycle path. We should invest in sports and culture. But if you ask the residents what they really want, they say education, security and clean streets. Not Formula 1 races. We asked, and there's no question what's more important in the minds of the average citizen."
One of King's major platform issues is the namesake of his faction, outlying neighborhoods. He argues that periphery areas such as Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov in the north and Gilo and Homat Shmuel (Har Homa) in the south are neglected while all major city events are conducted in the central areas.
"Every person that lives in Neve Yaakov or Ramot had to take buses, or drive and then find parking to attend such events. And all the businesses and restaurants that make money from these festivals are the same ones over and over," King explained. He also called for an amusement park, commonly referred to by the brand name Luna Park.
"You have six Luna Parks in the Tel Aviv and greater Gush Dan coastal region," King stated. "In Jerusalem we don't even have one, even though there are more children in the greater Jerusalem area then the entire Gush Dan area. We already have a concept to build one in either Pisgat Zeev or Atarot."
The bottom line for King is to "expand the focus on outlying neighborhoods" which he says will prevent any threat of going back to the 1949-1967 era in which the city was divided. He complained that he current administration blocked plans to expand to E1, the empty tract of land in-between Hebrew University and the city of Maale Adumim. He also called city plans to build a garbage recycling facility a creation of a de facto border which could make expansion more difficult.
"Investing in eastern Jerusalem and outlying areas will cause real estate prices to drop because there will be more supply. We can create will be more employment so people won't feel compelled to move to the Tel Aviv area."
King is running alongside former deputy mayor Shmuel Shkedi. The two will speak Sunday, October 6th at 8:00 pm at the Orthodox Union Israel Center as part of the OU Center's series. The center has also featured Mayor Nir Barkat, Moshe Leon and others. It is located at 22 Keren Hayesod street in Jerusalem.
Arutz Sheva - Israel National News does not endorse any specific candidate or party. This article is part of a series on the municipal elections. Interviews with Mayor Nir Barkat, Moshe Leon and others are forthcoming.
To download the full audio interview with Arieh King click here.
Elections will be held October 22nd. Voting cards indicating polling stations have already been mailed out to residents. For more information visit www.bocharim.org.il or call 02 629-6666.