In the campaign rulebook, it is the norm for candidates to toss around promises that their target constituencies would like to hear. And it is the nature of those pre-election declarations to make room for policies that suit the interests and needs of the moment.
And so should we treat the campaign of Nir Barkat, the secular Jerusalem mayoral candidate for "one united and indivisible capital." Many secular Jerusalem residents, among the voters for center and even left-wing parties, have chosen to ignore Barkat's right-wing style under the assumption/hope that his rhetoric will pry Jerusalem government out of ultra-Orthodox hands. Therefore Labor and Meretz are calling on the secular public to vote for Barkat for mayor over rival Meir Porush.
As the election nears, with the belief that the moderate secular public is in his pocket, Barkat no longer makes do with declaring support for "a unified Jerusalem" and protesting any compromise with the Palestinians regarding the sovereignty of the city; he is accelerating his pace into the arms of the right. This has earned him the support of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who has found in Barkat an ideological partner.
A few days ago Barkat toured the East Jerusalem village of Anata, accompanied by two proponents of the plans for Jewish settlement in the heart of Arab neighborhoods. Arieh King was one of the first Jewish residents of Ras el-Amud, developed by right-wing Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz. David Be'eri is the director of Elad, a nonprofit organization that has made "Judaizing" Jerusalem's Old City and its environs its calling card.
Barkat promised that if he wins, he will promote his companions' initiative to establish a Jewish neighborhood in Anata, already named Eastern Gate. With utter scorn for voter intelligence the leading secular candidate explained that building the neighborhood will solve the city's "shortage of housing for students and young people."
A glance at a map reveals that this is yet another plan to tighten the "Jewish continuum" between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim while provoking the Palestinian leadership and violating the state's promises to the U.S administration. Architect and former municipal engineer Uri Sheetrit once warned that the project would mandate the expropriation of a great deal of Palestinian land.
Jerusalem needs a mayor who will curb the emigration of secular young people, improve the school system and clean up the streets on both sides of the city, not a pyromaniac proponent of strife. The political future of the split and explosive capital should be left to the cabinet and the Knesset.
Labor and Meretz must inform Barkat the parties are withdrawing their support for his candidacy. Abandoning one of the most sensitive cities in the world to Barkat's hands is a very risky gamble. The secular minority remaining in the city faces an unenviable choice between Barkat, Porush and Arcadi Gaydamak. Given the options, it would be better to leave Jerusalem in the hands of a responsible Haredi than to give it to a man of the right who lacks political wisdom.
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