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In the Jerusalem mayoral race, empty vessels make the most noise

A smear campaign against Moshe Lion is a ploy to distract Jerusalem voters from Mayor Nir Barkat's abominable track record

Since even before Moshe Lion submitted his candidacy to be the next mayor of Jerusalem, I saw images on the streets of Jerusalem whose only purpose was to quell an open and honest mayoral elections campaign. As someone who has known and worked with Moshe at the highest levels of government, I know that these ad hominem attacks did not bother him.

However, what should bother us all about this expensive but slanderous campaign is that it is a full-frontal assault on the democratic process, open debate and the intelligence of the Jerusalem residents.

One would hope that after five years, the incumbent mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, would have some achievements to crow about, or a strong record to stand on before the electorate.

Every poster I have seen from the Barkat campaign, if it is not a vague but ridiculously unrealistic promise for the future, is a disgraceful attack on the man who stood by the mayor’s side as Chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority for the last five years.

Beyond the attacks on the opponent, I hear very little from the Barkat campaign.

Whenever I speak to a Barkat supporter, and I ask about his achievements, I hear the same refrain: “The atmosphere has changed”. I still don’t know exactly what that means, but statistically the mayor has failed worse than his predecessor Uri Lupolianski.

While around 80,000 Jerusalem residents left under Lupolianski, 90,000 have left under Barkat. The number of those under the poverty line has risen by almost ten percent since the current mayor took over. Fewer classrooms were built by Barkat than under Lupolianski, and more students have left the city. Is it any wonder when the incumbent mayor cancelled a student stipend created by his predecessor?

The percentage of the total budget allocated to cleaning and sanitation has been lowered, and according to recently released statistics, is one of the smallest percentages of the budget of any of the large cities.

Nonetheless, Jerusalem residents continue to pay the highest municipal taxes in the whole country.

When one looks at the cold hard numbers contained in the Central Bureau of Statistics, and not spin or propaganda, it becomes exceedingly clear why Barkat is focusing the overwhelming majority of his well-funded campaign funds on negative and scare-mongering tactics.

Even much of what Barkat supporters are claiming is responsible for the “change of atmosphere” is not even of his doing. I have read many pontifications about the important additions of The First Station, the new parks and the bike paths, and even the addition of tourism to the city.

However, it needs to be noted that all of these and more are a direct result of Moshe Lion’s role as Chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA). When Moshe entered the JDA it had a budget of a few tens of millions of shekels, but when Moshe left, just before he was obliged to do so as a result of submission of his mayoral candidacy, the budget was over 300 million shekels a year.

These funds have been absolutely vital to the development of Jerusalem. Even Barkat acknowledged this in a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Netanyahu, when he wrote that the tenure of Moshe Lion as Chairman of the JDA was “exceptionally good”, and that Moshe “played a great part in the development of Jerusalem.” Barkat continues to talk about their great partnership for the good of Jerusalem.

These words by Barkat stand in great contrast to his campaign posters which appear to taint Moshe as an outsider and someone Barkat can not even deign to mention by name anymore.

Moshe, to his credit has played no part in this mud-slinging, and even told The Times of Israel that: “I won’t say anything bad about Barkat.” During the recent debate on Channel Two when Lion went to embrace Barkat, as old friends and partners would, it was Barkat who gave the cold shoulder.

The long-suffering Jerusalem residents deserve a good and honest debate, not a vacuous slander-fest. I hope the Jerusalem residents understand that the current mayor is true to the adage: “Empty vessels make the most noise.”

I challenge the Barkat campaign to point to one campaign poster plastered around the city that stresses an achievement from the last five years. Even the Barkat campaign slogan “Today, tomorrow and always” leaves the audience wondering the most important question…..what did you do yesterday?

Moreover, each time these slanderous ad hominem attack posters or advertisements against Moshe Lion are seen, every Jerusalem resident should see them as an unequivocal reminder that the mayor has nothing to show for his five years in charge.

About the Author
Bobby Brown is the former Advisor on Diaspora Affairs to Prime Minister Netanyahu.
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