Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has posted a video clip on his Facebook page formally declaring that he is registering as a member of the Likud party, and calling on his supporters to follow suit. He also announced that he intends to stay on as mayor for three more years, until his term ends.
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For several months now Barkat has been busy recruiting new Likud members and, according to sources in city hall and elsewhere, devoting substantial resources to this effort. He has repeatedly stated that his aim is to strengthen his standing in Likud to bolster his work on behalf of the city, but the prevailing view is that he intends to enter politics on a national scale with the ambition of vying for the role of party leader.
Party officials have noted that Barkat's chances of being ranked high on a nation-wide Likud slate are not great due to the bitter conflict he has with Likud’s Jerusalem representative in the Knesset, David Amsalem, and to competition with other senior party members.
Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week that he is considering bringing forward the primary for party leadership. A senior Likud minister told Haaretz that Netanyahu has consulted with several Likud cabinet members about holding the vote in two to three months' time – even if he is the sole contender. One cabinet minister said that this move does not reflect the premier's intention to hold an early national election, rather a desire to fortify his standing as party leader.
In the video, Barkat said: “I left behind all my business ventures 15 years ago in order to serve Jerusalem, taking a salary of one shekel a year. Out of that same sense of mission and responsibility for the future of the State of Israel, I am joining the Likud party today. In the last election campaigns I supported and stood alongside the prime minister and Likud. As someone who believes in maintaining an undivided and whole Jerusalem and Land of Israel, in strengthening our security and closing social gaps – I cannot remain on the sidelines as a spectator."
He added, "A large-scale recruitment of new Likud members will bring new blood and a new spirit, strengthening a leadership that tries to serve the public without being influenced by irrelevant considerations. Such recruitment will also strengthen Jerusalem and allow it to take its rightful place when national resources are allocated. Jerusalem is my life’s mission. We have much work to do and I’ll continue serving the city at least until the end of my present term. I’ll decide at that point whether to run again or to enter politics on a national level. You have the right to participate in shaping the character of this country in the coming years. Join the Likud with me, now.”
Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and fellow Likudnik Zeev Elkin welcomed Barkat’s move.
“It’s only natural that the mayor of our capital is a member of the national camp," said Elkin. "Jerusalem residents put their confidence in Likud in the last election, and Likud won there by a larger margin than the overall country-wide margin of its victory. Thus, Barkat’s joining the Likud reflects the deep connection between the party and Jerusalem, fortifying both Jerusalem and the party. As minister for Jerusalem affairs I will continue to cooperate with the mayor in his daily work for the development and prosperity of Jerusalem.”