Monday, November 10, 2008

Jerusalem's Sad Mayoral Elections

Most of Israel's municipalities are holding elections tomorrow. Jerusalem is one of them, and boy am I glad not to be a Jerusalemite. Three men are running for mayor: Meir Porush, Nir Barkat and Arcadi Gaydamak. To say that they're all unworthy would be an understatement. Every single one of them would be a horrible mayor.

Meir Porush, a member of the Knesset representing the ulta-Orthodox Agudat Israel Party, has been quoted as saying that within 15 years there will be no secular mayor anywhere in Israel. He has a right wing political agenda and would like to impose a "medinat halacha", a state run according to religious law. The outgoing mayor, Uri Lupolianski, who is not running for re-election, was the first ultra-Orthodox mayor of Jerusalem, and he tried not to anger what is left of the secular population of the city. Porush doesn't seem as conciliatory.

Nir Barkat is known as "the secular candidate". He is a millionaire businessman and a right wing hawk who wants to build Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. While the mayor has nothing to do with peace negotiations, he can make things very difficult by creating facts on the ground. Maybe the fact that he is a successful businessman at least means he's a good administrator, but that isn't good enough for a city like Jerusalem.

Trailing in third place, according to the polls, is Arcadi Gaydamak, an eccentric Russian-born billionaire who is wanted in France for illegal arms dealing with Angola. He doesn't speak Hebrew, other than a few words here and there, so he communicates with Israelis in English. I don't really know what his platform is, if he has one at all, but the man himself is the problem. He uses his money to gain political power and does not like dissent. He calls anyone who disagrees with him stupid and worse curses. He even asked "who is Tzipi Livni to decide not to join forces with me in the municipal elections". That's quite a nerve!

Oh, Jerusalemites, don't you deserve better?

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