Jerusalem mayor hints at 'important decision' next week

Mayor Nir Barkat, who recently declined to run for reelection, hints at possible announcement for Knesset bid after visiting Western Wall.

David Rosenberg ,

Mayor Nir Barkat at Western Wall
Mayor Nir Barkat at Western Wall

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat hinted Friday morning that he will announce a “major decision” next week, just days after he reportedly ruled out the possibility of a third term as mayor of the capital.

On Tuesday, Hadashot TV reported that Barkat would not seek reelection as mayor, fueling speculation that the former Kadima party member, who later joined the Likud, is preparing for a Knesset run.

In response to Tuesday’s report, Barkat’s office said, “Nothing has changed. Barkat intends to approve Jerusalem's highest budget ever this coming Thursday, thanks to the support he has raised from the government ministries. As promised, after the approval of the budget he will announce his decision."

Municipal elections are held in Israel every five years, with the next election scheduled for October 30th, 2018.

In 2008, Barkat defeated United Torah Judaism candidate Meir Porush 53% to 43%. In October 2013, Barkat was reelected, brushing off Likud-backed challenger Moshe Lion 52% to 45%.

On Friday, Barkat released a somewhat cryptic message via Twitter, hinting that he was poised to make a “major decision” next week.

The message included a photograph of the mayor praying at the Western Wall.

“After a successful end to the difficult budget battle for the city, and ahead of a major decision next week, [I’m] praying at the Western Wall. What power and strength this place has! Shabbat Shalom!”

Barkat is widely expected to launch a primary bid for a place on the Likud party’s next Knesset list. While the mayor is unlikely to challenge Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for leadership of the party, recordings of closed-door meetings with Barkat suggest he may be seeking a senior position within the party, enabling him to lead the Likud if Netanyahu should retire.