Jerusalem Votes: Interim Report

Haim Watzman

South Jerusalem is not a good place to draw conclusions about trends throughout the city. This morning I disconcerted a Channel 10 crew looking for typical voters to interview when I told them I’d voted for Barkat and Meretz.

“But you’re wearing a kipah!” said the puzzled, well-dressed newsman, a Tel Aviv yuppie who’d been sent to cover those quaint, benighted Jews up in the mountains.

“Yes, but this is South Jerusalem,” I said.

The streets were lively today and when I went with my daughter to vote at mid-morning, the polling place was busy, even though these were work hours. It was a sharp contrast to the previous two municipal elections, five and ten years ago respectively, when turnout in this area was woefully low. Despite the fact that many people feel, as I do, that both major candidates are far from ideal, the battle between them seems to have galvanized voters.

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Oy, Jerusalem

Reading pre-election polls, I used to wonder how a person could intend firmly to vote yet be undecided. If you cared enough to vote, you had to have an opinion. If you didn’t like the candidates, you could still choose the lesser evil – and you were morally obligated to vote for the lesser evil, lest the greater evil win.

I have shed my patronizing attitude. Tomorrow I am supposed to vote for mayor of Jerusalem. I care deeply, and I’m undecided. Indeed, I’m more undecided than I was several weeks ago. I still believe in the obligation to vote for the lesser evil. But which of the major candidates – Nir Barkat or Meir Porush – qualifies for that dubious title?

Let me phrase the dilemma – as my wife did – in terms of risk: There’s an large chance that Porush will fulfill at least some of the the dark predictions of his critics. There’s a slighter lesser risk that Barkat will do what critics fear – but the damage he could cause is much greater. Electing Barkat mayor is akin to hoping that a pyromaniac keeps his matches buried in his pocket.

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Ha’aretz Gets It Wrong in Jerusalem’s Mayoral Race

Haim Watzman

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?

Read moreHa’aretz Gets It Wrong in Jerusalem’s Mayoral Race