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Issues of the Day Jerusalem Spared Further Sorrow

Since the death of the inimitable Teddy Kollek, who served five terms as mayor of Jerusalem from 1967-1993 and modernized and integrated Israel's capital, the holy city had not been blessed with worthy leadership until Nir Barkat was elected in 2008.


Barkat, a conservative and nationalist, is politically not my cup of tea. But he advocates a pluralistic Jerusalem and has attempted to make the Israeli capital an open city friendly to students and tourists while working to improve the provision of quality services to its citizens.


He also appears to be a man of integrity, which is not a quality one readily associates with his two predecessors, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (1993–2003) and Uri Lupolianski (2003–2008). The two ex-mayors have been indicted in a shady urban development scheme known as the Holyland Affair.

In yesterday's municipal elections, Barkat's incumbency was challenged by Moshe Leon, a resident of a Tel Aviv suburb who was recruited by two political bosses, ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman and Aryeh Deeri, head of the clericalist Shas party to challenge the sitting mayor.


Lieberman, who will soon face a verdict on charges of fraud and breach of trust relating to his tenure as foreign minister, heads the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party. Deeri, who following a trial (2002) on corruption charges deriving from bribe taking during his tenure as interior minister served twenty-two months of a three year prison sentence. In late 2012 he was politically rehabilitated by the recently deceased grand rabbi, Ovadia Yosef,  and appointed to head of the haredi Shas party, which has been in steady decline since.    


Despite their candidate's lack of qualifications, Lieberman and Deeri apparently decided to foist Leon on Jerusalem to stanch their political decline and to shore up their growing irrelevance. Thankfully, the ploy was rejected by the Jerusalem electorate despite concerted attempts at backroom deal-making and efforts to mobilize large herds of directed voters to back their cause.


I am grateful that the attempted takeover of Jerusalem city hall undertaken by political bosses whose bald considerations were personal and political ultimately failed. Jerusalem, such a fragile mosaic and so in need of understanding and coexistence among its myriad constituencies would have surely suffered further sorrow if the Lieberman- Deeri plot had been successful. 

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved