Barkat defers to Netanyahu over Likud leadership

Jerusalem mayor won't challenge Prime Minister, he announces Wednesday, despite recordings hinting otherwise.

Tova Dvorin ,

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat
Hadas Parush/Flash90

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (Likud) announced Wednesday night that he does not intend to run for Likud leadership for as long as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is head of the party, amid speculation about his political future. 

"I think it would be wrong to disqualify him for the job," Barkat said, at an event at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI). "I wish him good luck."

"I have spoken with him several times and he has very interesting worldviews," he added. "He thinks outside the box. And he is not alone: he has the IDF, the intelligence system, the government and Cabinet behind him."

The two-term mayor ran in Jerusalem municipal elections three times – 2003, 2008, and 2013 – as an independent, though he maintained close ties with the Kadima party and served as chief of its Jerusalem branch.

In December 2015, however, Barkat joined Likud, with widespread speculation that he was plotting a political future as an MK following his second term.

Barkat has hinted he would run for the Likud primaries in the past, amid a frenzy among Likudniks to replace Netanyahu - or, at the very least, introduce term limits. 

His allegiance to 'Team Netanyahu' follows damning recordings released last month wherein the mayor hinted at an intraparty revolution.