Jerusalem Deputy Mayor (HaBayit HaYehudi) David Hadari announced on Sunday, 17 Teves 5773 that he is rejecting the draft agreement received from the national government and City Hall professional level. The councilman was speaking in his capacity has head of the city finance committee. The draft document permits the state and city to wipe out a portion of the debt owed by the Church of the Sepulcher, which has reached 9 million NIS spanning tens of years during which the church did not pay for water.
The government approved the church paying for the past four years, wiping the slate for the decades that preceded it, amounting to a total debt of 400,000 NIS. This debt will be divided among five government agencies; the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry, Ministry of the Interior, Tourism Ministry and Jerusalem City Hall. Each was to pay 80,000 NIS of the church’s debt.
During the Sunday meeting of the city finance committee, Hadari rejected the document despite the approval of the government ministries and possible outcry from the international community.
After the meeting adjourned, Hadari stated ‘Despite the special sensitivity surrounding the issue, it is not acceptable that the Patriarch drinks water and citizens of the state pay the bill!”
The deputy mayor added that national treasures found in Yerushalayim such as the Kosel, Knesset, Yad Vashem, and Ammunition Hill wouldn’t dare to try throwing a debt like this on the people. They would not have permitted the debt to mount. They would have paid without national assistance. “It is unacceptable for the church to obtain special preferred status over the Knesset and Kosel” he added.
Despite the Jerusalem Finance Committee decision, Mayor Nir Barkat is likely to overturn their ruling and approve the payment of the church’s water by state agencies.
Officials in City Hall released a statement that the various state agencies negotiated an agreement which the mayor plans to respect. Officials add the agreement is the result of negotiations that represent a breakthrough since the church has agreed to pay for its water from today on, based on the various agencies assisting in covering the past debt.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)