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?

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.

11 thoughts on “Ha’aretz Gets It Wrong in Jerusalem’s Mayoral Race”

  1. I’m voting for Barkat because he is obviously the best-qualified candidate for mayor. Anyone who attended the AACI debate could see that. However, if the only issue someone cares about is not building in East Jerusalem and establishing that area as a Palestinian capital, rather than grabage, housing, and transportation, then that person should vote for Porush. Why? Because these are national decisions, and if Porush is elected, the rest of the country will feel even more alienated from Jerusalem than they already are. Most Israelis will view Jerusalem as merely a bigger Bnei Brak, and will support dividing it. In fact, at that point, most Israelis would support adding Mea Shearim to the Palestinian capital.

  2. Gleicher wrote:
    Because these are national decisions, and if Porush is elected, the rest of the country will feel even more alienated from Jerusalem than they already are. Most Israelis will view Jerusalem as merely a bigger Bnei Brak, and will support dividing it. In fact, at that point, most Israelis would support adding Mea Shearim to the Palestinian capital.
    This is, of course, a myth that Gleicher is spreading. All polls show large majorities of Israelis oppose any political division of the city. Of course, Gleicher, like many Leftists might hold that the majority of Israelis “who count” in his eyes (i.e. the “enlightened Left” ) may indeed feel this way , but they are a minority, even if they feel they only they have a right to rule the country.
    This obsession with the Haredim many Leftists have is obviously not the main political passion of even the most secular in Israel, otherwise why would the Shinui party have collapsed so totally after having 15 seats? Apparently other issues are more important even for this sector of society.

    In any event, political division of the city will INEVITABLY lead to its destruction, or at least its vivisection. Berlin was divided politically after the War but was supposed to remain physically undivided. Of course, this didn’t happen. Those who support turning the eastern part of the city are going to have to explain how Israel’s loss of security control of the Arab part of the city will allow it to remain open. An international border wall would HAVE to built in the center of the city, just like existed before 1967. Arabs working in the western part of the city would have to undergo security checks at the crossing point every day (of course, Olmert is promising that no Arabs will cross, so all the Arabs working in the Jewish areas will be fired and the city would be hermetically sealed under Olmert’s dream solution). This would be very time consuming. Also, we would have to assume Arab controlled areas on the seam line between the Jewish areas and Arab parts of the city would become bases for terrorist attacks and shooting into the Jewish areas, just like what happend in Gilo. Also, the Kotel and Jewish Quarters would come under constant attack and Jews travelling there would come under harrassment.
    Of course, some on the extreme Left would welcome these scenarios…it would mean a return to the Israel before 1967 where the religious were a small minority that “knew its place”, cut off from its holy places. But the large majority will not accept this danger. Even the Left won’t be able to divide the city. Promises by Olmert, Livni and others that they would only give up the “outlying areas” like Abu Dis are lying to the public….the Palestinians want THE WHOLE THING and are demanding a return to the pre-67 lines. THAT INCLUDES GIVING THEM CONTROL OF THE KOTEL as well. The Palestinians have NEVER agreed to give Israel control of the Kotel and Jewish Quarters..they only talk about allowing access.
    Time to wake up from illusions.

  3. “So why is Ha’aretz eager to punish Barkat and not Porush?”

    We know who Porush is and who his constituency is. He doesn’t dress up in a flash suit and tie, pretend to be the nice secular guynextdoor and claim to represent disaffected non-haredi Jews.

    Anyway, Barkat will just build a coalition with the haredim. He’s not getting my vote.

    It’s funny that Porush, Barkat and Gaydamak are all spouting the same (insincere) rhetoric about reversing the neglect of east Jerusalem, at the same time as vowing to keep it ‘united’.

  4. Y B-D,
    You misread my comment. I took no stand on whether Jerusalem should or should not be divided. I merely stated that IF someone was in favor of dividing Jerusalem, voting for Porush was the best way of achieving that goal, for the reasons I wrote. I am voting for Barkat.

  5. I’m having a problem with the assumed facts not in evidence–that anything and everything on the other side of the Green Line is Palestinian–including East Jerusalem. The fact that land was taken by armed force, occupied and annexed by Jordan does not render it “Palestinian.” Obviously, for a two-state solution to work, both sides have to compromise, but the Palestinian rant that “East Jerusalem” is theirs has no basis in fact or law. Nor would I agree to return Gush Etzion or Har Homa or Givat Ze’ev or Atarot to the future nation of Palestine, as those were Jewish properties seized and illegally occupied by Jordan to start with. Then there is the strategic angle–how many Israelis would really want to run the shooting-gallery-gauntlet that was Latrun prior to 1967. Some compromise on the borders is necessary–but all I hear from the Palestinians and their supporters is “the 1967 borders!!” which were NOT borders but rather the 1948 Armistice Lines.

    Apart from the Jerusalem neighborhoods question, I’m simply not prepared to vote for a candidate who supports erasing women’s faces from billboards and newspapers, and making them ride separately on the bus. You vote for Porush, you’re voting against the civil rights of every woman in this city.

    BTW, YD, David Gleicher is NOT a “leftist”– he’s my neighbor in Baka and a stand up Zionist.

  6. My apologies to David Gleicher….but you did imply that “most Israelis” want to get rid of Jerusalem because “it is like Benei Braq”. I don’t agree at all with this….I think most Israelis who are critical of the Haredim for various reasons(and this includes both religious and non-religious people) are intelligent enough to understand the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, regardless of what percentage of the population of the city in Haredi.

  7. As the friend who suggested that Barkat is the more likely candidate to actually buildi in East Jerusalem, I would point out that in addition to being a “go-getter,” Barkat is more IDEOLOGICALLY committed than is Porush to building in East Jerusalem – even to making Jerusalem even more an obstacle to peace than it already is. I therefore still believe he’d be more likely to do it than Porush – in my opinion, deep in his heart Porush doesn’t really care where the housing for ultra-Orthodox families is lovcated, as long as it is built.

    In the present situation, in which the national government is both weak and sometimes cannot or will not enforce court rulings, the mayor will be able to create solid “facts on the ground” even though theoretically the question of building in East Jerusalem is the national government’s provenance. There would also be ample opportunity to cooperate with the likes of Ateret Cohanim.

    That said, because Porush is such a bad candidate on all other counts, I still don’t know what I’m going to do.

    How are you so sure that Barkat will make a coalition with Meretz?

  8. Thanks for your response, Sara. I’d take exception to your statement that Porush doesn’t have an ideological commitment to building in East Jerusalem. While his major concern may be building homes for his community no matter where, for the last 30 years he and his party have continually favored settlement construction on the national and local level. He and his public are certainly not moved by humanistic concern for the Palestinians nor for the peace process. As for a Barkat/Meretz coalition, I can’t make any promises, but the political logic is clear. Barkat wants to reduce Haredi influence and promote good government. On both counts Meretz is a natural ally. Of course, so is NRP/Ihud Leumi and they will probably be in his coalition, also. But Meretz in a Barkat-led coalition will have more influence than it would if it was in opposition, as it almost certainly would be, in a Porush-led administration.

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