For the good news, talk to the mayor

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY OR­LANDO RADICE

FOR A man in the eye of a storm, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is strik­ingly up­beat.

Never mind the fact that the politi­cian can­celled a trip to Lon­don this week to over­see the bulk­ing up of se­cu­rity in the city, which has been at the epi­cen­tre of the ter­ror­ism sweep­ing Is­rael.

Speak­ing on the phone from his mu­nic­i­pal head­quar­ters, Mr Barkat said that the Arabs of Jerusalem are mostly happy with the sta­tus quo, tourists are safer than in any other city in the world and vi­o­lence is fall­ing fast.

The mayor rea­soned that the cur­rent wave of vi­o­lence emerges from a small mi­nor­ity of the city’s res­i­dents.

“A poll done in East Jerusalem just be­fore this round of vi­o­lence shows that the vast ma­jor­ity are sat­is­fied with the sit­u­a­tion in Jerusalem and do not want the city di­vided. We can demon­strate high sat­is­fac­tion in Arab neigh­bour­hoods,” he said.

The prob­lem, he said, was not the liv­ing con­di­tions of Arabs in East Jerusalem — 75 per cent of whom live be­low the poverty line, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­a­tion for Civil Rights in Is­rael — but the lies told by the Pales­tinian lead­ers that get dis­trib­uted on so­cial me­dia.

Look­ing for­ward to the day when the ter­ror­ism sub­sides, Mr Barkat said that in­vest­ment in Arab ar­eas was on the rise and that he would con­tinue to look at im­prov­ing qual­ity of life for all. “I am the mayor of all peo­ple, of all chil­dren,” he said.

Mr Barkat, who him­self wres­tled a knife at­tacker to the ground in Jerusalem ear­lier this year, re­cently en­cour­aged Jewish res­i­dents of Jerusalem with firearms per­mits to carry their guns and to stay on high alert. He has also boosted po­lice num­bers and set up new road­blocks and fences around Arab ar­eas of the city.

“Th­ese tech­niques have been very ef­fec­tive. Since we put in the road­blocks and check­points, there has been a dra­matic de­crease in ter­ror at­tacks.

“In fact, as the vi­o­lence has dropped, we have slowly re­duced the check­points in the less dif­fi­cult ar­eas and fo­cused on where there has been most trou­ble,” he said.

He dis­missed the idea that tourists should worry for their safety in the city. “Jerusalem is safer than Lon­don. I chal­lenge friends around the world to check the statis­tics and find out the chances of get­ting hurt in their own city com­pared to Jerusalem. This is one of the safest ci­ties in the world.”

He said that there was noth­ing Is­rael could — or should — do to change the se­cu­rity and ac­cess ar­range­ments sur­round­ing Al Aqsa, the mosque com­plex that Pales­tini­ans be­lieve Is­rael is try­ing to over­run. The claims made by Pales­tini­ans about Al Aqsa were “in­cite­ments”, he said, adding that any changes to the sta­tus quo there would amount to re­ward­ing ter­ror­ism.

“Th­ese vi­o­lent peo­ple will end up with zero gains. No new ideas will be put on the ta­ble. All new ideas have to be taken off.”

Mr Barkat at­tacked the be­hav­iour of Pales­tinian Author­ity leader Mah­moud Ab­bas dur­ing the past three weeks of vi­o­lence as “shame­ful. He sends Mus­lim kids to get killed or go to jail. When they kill an in­no­cent per­son in the streets of Jerusalem, he’s part of it. He’s to blame for that.”

The mayor had been plan­ning to share his vi­sion for Jerusalem and rally sup­port for the city dur­ing his trip to Lon­don, which was due to have been hosted by the Jerusalem Foundation.

PHOTO; FLASH 90

Barkat at the scene of a stab­bing in Jerusalem ear­lier this

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