Barkat by Default

Haim Watzman

I just got a call from Meir Porush‘s campaign central. Would I be voting for the Haredi candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, the polite young woman asked me? No, I won’t, I said. I’ll be voting for the rival candidate, Nir Barkat. And to hell with my blogging partner, Gershom, whose concern for an equitable settlement with the Palestinians in Jerusalem (justified) and his abiding suspicion of rich businessmen (somewhat less justified) has misled him into support for Porush (see “Sorry, Nir Barkat Will Not Save Jerusalem“).

Like Gershom, I’m extremely displeased rhetoric Barkat’s Greater Jerusalem rhetoric, which rules out any compromise with the Palestinians in the capital city. Barkat’s recent promise to build a new neighborhood for students in easternmost East Jerusalem seems to indicate either a willful ignorance of the state of the city’s Palestinian neighborhoods or a desire to pander to the extreme right.

But Porush is hardly a leftie on this issue. He, too, declares that he will keep Jerusalem united.

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Sorry, Nir Barkat Will Not Save Jerusalem

A lot of my friends in Jerusalem think that mayoral candidate Nir Barkat will save the city. There are generally two arguments they offer: First, he’s a former high-tech entrepreneur, and the business world produces better managers than the political arena does.

Second, and much more important, Barkat is secular. Among secular, traditional, and modern-leaning Orthodox Jewish residents of Jerusalem there’s a backlash against ultra-Orthodox hegemony at City Hall. There’s a pervading sense that ultra-Orthodox rule is responsible for the city’s economic decline, and for the exodus of young people. The conventional wisdom is that the ultra-Orthodox are on the demographic march toward turning Jerusalem into a giant neo-shtetl, big sister to Bnei Brak. Barkat is supposed to be the solution.

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