Nir Barkat may soon decide his political future in Jerusalem. According to sources close to him, the mayor is “indecisive” due to the unsure fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The 58-year-old Barkat only wants to run for national office if he can win the Likud primaries on his way to being Prime Minister. If he feels that the Prime Minister will be forced to step down, then he will run for Knesset. Otherwise, he will attempt to gain a third term in office.
If Barkat runs, he will be favored to win. However, the election dynamics would be significantly different than when he ran against Moshe Lion in 2013. Then, Lion was considered to be the ultra-Orthodox candidate of choice (despite being supported by Yisrael Beitenu) and Barkat the pluralist candidate. Since then, Barkat made a deal with the Ashkenazi Haredim that could give him significant support amongst the community, but which strained his relationship with the pluralist community. Currently, only the Haredim and Bayit Yehudi sit in the mayor’s coalition, a far cry from the wide coalition that worked together after the 2013 election.
A previous report also seemed to suggest that Barkat was leaning towards staying in Jerusalem. During an interview with Mynet Jerusalem, holder of the coveted community center portfolio Moshe Lion claimed that he made no deal to not run against the mayor in the next election. Lion’s assertion was shocking as Barkat gave him one of the most powerful portfolios in the municipality.
Barkat’s camp also seemed surprised and furiously responded to Lion’s claim. According to them, when they allowed Lion to join the coalition and take the valuable portfolio, they only did so on condition that Lion would not run against Barkat again. Responding to Lion’s claim, one Barkat official said “We beat him once and we will beat him again” a strong statement from a team focused on the Knesset.
Curiously, Barkat is said to be waiting until after he takes a vacation with his wife this week to make a decision. Those following the news closely might remember that Barkat was supposed to take Beverly Barkat on a decision vacation after his last budget spat with the Finance Ministry over a month ago. However, the decision never came.
(Header Photo By Kobi Gideon © 2018 National Photo Collection)