Jerusalem Municipality: Arabs to Blame for Own Lack of Representation

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Yossi HavilioCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Jerusalem municipality blamed lack of Arab voting and the power of the ultra-Orthodox parties for the under-representation of Arabs and women respectively in municipal institutions, in court testimony last week.

The municipality was responding to an appeal by Tzahor, a new group established by Yossi Havilio, the municipality’s former legal adviser, who was dismissed due to conflict with Mayor Nir Barkat.

Tzahor’s appeal to the district court states that Arab and women Jerusalemites are under-represented in city institutions, such as municipal corporations and cultural and sports bodies. It also states that the mayor appoints his close associates to the boards of various municipal corporations. The appeal mentions the names of no fewer than 10 people on the mayor’s roster who were not elected to the city council, but were appointed to posts in municipal corporations.

According to the appeal, only 4.5 percent of board members of municipal corporations are Arab, while the Arab population of Jerusalem is 37 percent. The appeal also notes that women are a small minority on such boards and there are many without any women.

In the municipality’s response to the appeal, submitted last week, attorney Dan Bar-Tal, representing the city, said: “There is no argument that the relative and the absolute part of Arabs in the municipal corporations and committees is disproportionate to their number in the population. But, let us not forget that their rate of participation in municipal elections is 1 percent of all voters.”

According to Bar-Tal, because there are no Arab city council members, board members cannot be appointed from among them.

However, most board members are in fact appointed from among municipality employees and the general public.

According to Havilio, precisely because Arabs are not represented on the city council, affirmative action should be enacted when it comes to appointments to the boards of municipal corporations.

With regard to women, the municipality claimed that the fact that the ultra-Orthodox parties have no women representatives means no women can be appointed to these posts. “This is not a value judgment but a statement of facts required for discussion of the appeal,” Bar-Tal wrote.

“The city recognizes shamelessly that since the Arabs are not an ‘electoral asset’ and they are not represented on the council, their right to receive posts in the municipality and its institutions can be violated,” Havilio said.

The municipality responded: “Attorney Havilio is motivated by feelings of revenge because he was dismissed from the municipality. He submits endless baseless appeals, which he loses.” The municipality also said that contrary to what was claimed, there are many Arab representatives on boards of directors. “The municipality appoints to the corporations and the committees senior Arab employees, and there is no basis for this claim.”

The municipality also told the court that out of 66 municipal employees who serve on the boards of directors of its corporations, 26 are women, “and the municipality is proud of this.”

As for Havilio’s claims of political appointments by the mayor, the city said: “the representatives of the public were all selected in light of their professional skills and not their political affiliation.”

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