So Ha’aretz has joined the gaggle of left-wingers who want to punish Nir Barkat. Barkat supports the construction of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which is incompatible with cutting a deal with the Palestinians creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. So a vote for Barkat is a vote against peace.
Now, we here at South Jerusalem think building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem is an awful thing to do. We advocate a two-state solution and we have noted time and again that when Israel builds for Jews on occupied land it often does so on land stolen from Palestinians or obtained under dubious circumstances. So, like Ha’aretz, we’re disappointed and disturbed that Barkat has jumped on the settler bandwagon.
But the Ha’aretz editorial neglects to note that Porush advocates building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as well, as he says here (in Hebrew), on his campaign website. Of course, Porush wants the neighborhoods to provide housing for his ultra-Orthodox community, while Barkat wants them to be designated for students and the religious Zionist community.
So why is Ha’aretz eager to punish Barkat and not Porush?
One friend of mine suggested that, despite their identical positions, Barkat is more likely to keep his promise because he’s the kind of guy who gets things done. But Porush, an experienced and businesslike politician, is no less efficient than Barkat is.
Of course, in the end Jewish construction in East Jerusalem has to be approved by the national government. But even within the limited influence that the Jerusalem city government has over the issue, Barkat is less likely to be able to push his Greater Jerusalem agenda.
If Porush wins, he will form a city council coalition consisting of the Haredi parties and the hypernationalist and religious parties of the right. Barkat, who will be eager to reduce Haredi influence in the city, will almost certainly have to include the left-wing Meretz party in his coalition. The Meretz city council members will be an effective block against Barkat’s East Jerusalem initiative.
We’d all feel better if there were a viable mayoral candidate who opposed Jewish encroachment in Arab Jerusalem. But faced with two candidates with identically unpalatable positions, it becomes, for the purposes of choosing a mayor, a non-issue. Barkat is–and all the leftists supporting Porush agree on this–a superior candidate for mayor on every other count.
So the obvious solution for the Jerusalem left-winger aghast at Barkat’s interest in moving Jews into East Jerusalem is to vote for Barkat anyway–and to cast a vote for the Meretz slate in the city council election.