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Monday, February 25, 2013

Exclusive interview with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat

The mayor of Jerusalem has a question for those who want construction to be frozen in the eastern part of Jerusalem.

What do you really mean? Because we've just been investing over a halfa billion shekels on infrastructure and roads (in the Arab sector.) We're building 500 classrooms in the Arab sector...And we're registering many, many buildings for the residents of east Jerusalem. My question was, what do you mean by 'freeze.' Freeze everything? Or, God forbid, is somebody hinting, 'Wait a minute. Before you give someone a permit, check him out. If he's Jewish, freeze him, if he is Muslim or Christian give him a license'? ...Is somebody hinting to us to look at the color of his skin, to look at his religion before we give him a permit and a  license? 
Usually I don't get any answers back.

In an exclusive interview with Elder of Ziyon, Mayor Barkat  decried what he called "triple standards" that critics demand of the municipality of Jerusalem. The mayor described all other cities as having one standard,  and Jerusalem as being held to a higher standard - which he has no problem with. But the third standard, which is unacceptable, is one that holds that Arabs can build illegally wherever and whenever they want, and that if the city provides services to them it is criticized but if it doesn't then it is accused of neglect. Instead, Barkat described his vision for a united Jerusalem, with one law and equal rights for all.

Barkat also stated that there are some ten thousand permits for apartments registered in Arab areas of Jerusalem over the past four years, a far cry from the way that anti-Israel groups characterize the issue. "Don't listen to too much media," he joked.

I asked him about neighborhoods like Isswiya, where non-Arabs have been nearly lynched more than once. He answered that Jerusalem's murder rate is 1/20th that of major American cities and the crime rate was also much lower, but also that things are being done to make it better. He disagreed when I said that Har HaZeitim has been a dangerous place to visit, saying that things are much improved there and it is now perfectly safe.

The full interview can be viewed here: