Jerusalem Mayor-elect Nir Barkat this week met with chareidi representatives, Meir Porush, Yosef Lock and Shlomo Rosenstein from Agudah, and Yitzchak Pindrus, Eli Neiman and Shlomo Malek from Degel, as he continues efforts to include chareidim in the Yerushalayim ruling coalition. These are the members of the coalition negotiating team representing chareidi interests.
The mayor-elect continues to deliver messages of assurance and calm, that he has no intentions of interfering in the life of the city’s chareidi community, calling on representatives to approve entering the coalition to permit working side-by-side. He vows to maintain the religious status quo, and explains he is not seeking to step on any toes. He is however remaining firm in his decision to only offer one deputy mayoral post at present, despite the significant representation on the council held by chareidim, explaining that 5 deputy posts were promised during the election to those who ran with him and supported him. This he explains will not be changed because he gave his word.
Barkat’s advisor on chareidi affairs, Avraham Kroizer, delivered a message to Gedolei Torah from the mayor-elect that if the chareidi parties agree to enter into his coalition, all his promises will be in writing as part of the coalition agreement.
Barkat this week also held private meetings with Eli Yishai of Shas, Yaakov Litzman of Agudah, and Meir Porush and Meir Pindrus as the representatives of Agudah and Degel respectively on the local city level. Barkat told them he wants their support, explaining he plans to be mayor for at least 10 years and feels the chareidim should be part of his coalition.
Litzman called for preserving Shabbos and to avoid chilul Shabbos by municipal employees. Yishai stressed the need to lower tempers between the frum and secular communities, and Porush and Pindrus exchanged a number of ideas on various issues, realizing with mixed emotions that “what was was; and it will not be again in the future”.
The financial portfolio that was in their hands during the current administration was already promised to David Hadadi from NRP. As per the pre-election agreement, Hadadi will be Barkat’s third deputy mayor as well.
The education portfolio held by NRP in the current administration is being held by Barkat himself. The other two deputy mayors will be from Meretz and Yisrael Beitenu.
There is also talk of one deputy post for Agudah and one for Shas, but this too is not without controversy, as always, as Pindrus of Degel wants it for the first 2.5 years, to be followed by Porush of Shlomei Emunim. Porush does not appear too anxious to accept this. Actually, it remains to be seen if he will remain in City Hall or return to Knesset and face the music there regarding the upcoming elections. What the chareidim are really seeking is four deputy posts, two for Shas and two for Agudah. Perhaps this will permit peace in the chareidi camp but such an eventuality is highly unlikely with the mayor-elect.
Pindrus points out that he views Barkat as having strong desires to work with the chareidim, rejecting any attempt to label him as anti-religious. “I sat and talked with him. He is not anti-religious. We must find an acceptable price for a party with eight mandates. At the end of the day, he is a businessman and is well aware of the strategic value of bringing 8 supporters on board.”
Barkat is willing to give Agudah a deputy post, and the chareidi education and Torani culture & public health portfolios. To Shas he is willing to give social welfare portfolio and head of the allocations committee. Barkat is also working on other enticements to win over the chareidim, such as a possible assistance to the city’s director-general and possibly a chair of other committees.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)