A Jerusalem interchange was named after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s father on Sunday, in an expedited process that circumvented the city’s usual rules.
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The interchange named for Prof. Benzion Netanyahu links the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze’ev and Neveh Ya’akov directly to Route 443, a major artery running from the capital to Tel Aviv. Both the prime minister and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat attended the dedication ceremony.
The city’s rules state that streets can normally be named after someone only three years after the person’s death. But the wait can be shortened by a special vote of both the committee in charge of naming streets and the full city council, and both bodies voted thusly in the case of Benzion Netanyahu, who died a year ago at the age of 102.
Nevertheless, sources in the municipality said they can’t remember another case in which the wait was shortened so drastically. They said the expedited vote is particularly noteworthy given the protracted fight over naming a street after another famous professor who, like Netanyahu, served as co-editor of the Encyclopedia Hebraica: It took 16 years until the city agreed two weeks ago to name a street after Yeshayahu Leibowitz, and the street still hasn’t been chosen.
City councilman Meir Margalit (Meretz) said that while the elder Netanyahu certainly deserves a street name, “I have no doubt that this [expedited] process is connected to Barkat’s attempt to prevent Likud from running a candidate against him in the mayoral election” scheduled for this autumn. Benjamin Netanyahu heads the Likud party.
Speaking at Sunday’s dedication ceremony, the prime minister said, “We are working continuously and systematically to connect Jerusalem to itself and to connect it with the rest of the country, because Zion is important to us, as it was important to my father. It’s not for nothing that he was called Benzion” − Hebrew for “son of Zion.”
The new interchange is meant to ease the massive traffic jams at the French Hill intersection. But it was opposed by Palestinian residents of the Beit Hanina neighborhood, who complained that it ran through their lands.
The Jerusalem municipality said the rules for naming interchanges aren’t the same as those for naming roads, and that all the relevant rules were complied with. It added that a professional committee had unanimously recommended naming the interchange after Benzion Netanyahu, “an outstanding, exceptional figure.”