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| Jerusalem Needs Serious Leadership: A Conversation with Ze'ev Elkin

Jerusalem Will Succeed Party    
Thursday, 04 October 9:11 PM

Five questions for Minister of Jerusalem and Jerusalem Mayoral Candidate Ze'ev Elkin of “Jerusalem Will Succeed”

At least one-third of the city's residents are Arabs. East Jerusalem lags behind in every measure – education, infrastructure, employment. Does this matter for the rest of the city, and do you have a plan to address it?

The most important part of your question is “Does it matter for the rest of the city?”.  The answer is – Absolutely. Jerusalem is one city, and what happens in one neighborhood affects all the others. Jerusalem cannot balance its budget and prosper if business activity does not grow dramatically in Arab neighborhoods, and if we do not behave like the sovereign in all of Jerusalem.

I urge the voters not to pay attention to what politicians promise - everyone makes promises - but to pay close attention to what leaders actually do.  In my three years as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, I created and advanced unprecedented initiatives on sovereignty and infrastructure in East Jerusalem. If we want a prosperous Jerusalem, we as a city have to live up to our responsibility as the sovereign here.  We must ensure that it is a place free from crime and we must ensure that they have modern infrastructure that meets their daily needs.

The education system in Arab neighborhoods needs to be Israeli and not Palestinian.  This is in their interest as much as it is in ours. Today students who study in the Palestinian system are left with no bagrut, and without the educational and professional opportunities that graduates of the Israeli system have.  I want to offer all Jerusalem's students the brightest future possible. We passed legislation giving incentives to Arab schools in Jerusalem to teach the Israeli curriculum.   It is an important step in a long process.

We also must develop business in these neighborhoods. Every city lives on its arnona from businesses. There is too little business activity in Arab neighborhoods, which means that the rest of the city is funding the services in Arab neighborhoods. This of course is a problem for the entire city.  We can't balance the Jerusalem budget in this reality.

Jerusalem's challenges are interconnected. We cannot address them as if they were separate issues.  

 

What is biggest problem facing Jerusalem?

The first problem I want to solve is housing. Young residents and young couples aren’t staying here. This is a problem across the spectrum - secular, traditional, religious Zionist, and also Haredim. It's a problem for everyone.  It harms the Jewish majority of the city, and it causes the city to age.

These trends were what Mayor Nir Barkat sought to address, with many successes, and we will do even more, to keep the city attractive for young people to afford to live here.

And it obviously has to do with the price of apartments. We need a massive planning and building campaign here in Jerusalem. We need 100,000 apartments planned immediately, to close the gaps in housing that have opened over the past decade, and to meet the demands of the city’s natural growth.  We need to create far greater supply. Anyone who understands basic economics knows this.

By the way, the housing crisis also complicates another issue, the tensions between secular and Haredi Jerusalemites. Young Haredi families can't find apartments in Haredi neighborhoods, so many leave Jerusalem to Beitar Illit or Beit Shemesh, but many, understandably, move into other neighborhoods, which leads to concerns by the Zionist community. Believe me, the Haredim would rather have their own neighborhoods, and are not looking to fight with neighbors in mixed neighborhoods.

All of us want to help create space for everyone to live as they see best.  I have earned the trust to work with all parties involved. And I, more than any of the other candidates, know how to create outcomes that work for all sides.  This is what I have done in my role as coalition chairman and running government ministries.


Since you brought up tensions between groups, how will you ensure that Jerusalem remains a city for all its residents?

This city can't move forward with leaders who cause conflict between different populations in the city. We can fight over who gets more of the cake that exists now, and claw at each other over who gets what, or we can make the cake bigger so that everyone benefits.

I was the coalition chairman in the government for four years.  And we got laws passed. And we advanced our agenda. And guess what?   In that coalition there were Haredim and there were anti-Haredim, there were secular and there were religious. Right and left. And I was able to make sure everyone worked together to solve problems in a quiet, effective fashion.   That is what I bring to the table. I do not seek headlines, I get results. When everyone is respected in the process, trust is built, and problems are solved.

I am not beholden to any particular group. I intend and feel obligated to represent the city's diverse population.  Some candidates talk about Haredim as a problem to be dealt with. I see them as an integral part of the city, as I do secular and Dati Leumi residents, and Arab residents. Everyone is a Jerusalemite, and they deserve the municipality's attention to address their concerns.

Many of the religious-secular fights in Jerusalem are in the headlines now because some people have an interest in sparking a fire over these issues during election season. I have found in my career that there are many questions of religion and state that can be solved intelligently, calmly and, quietly, before everyone climbs up the tree.  

Jerusalemites don’t want a candidate who uses division as a political tool. We've seen too much of that in this city. They want someone who knows how to speak with everyone.  They want someone who can gather communities around a table to find solutions that work for all.

 

Why do you want to be mayor of Jerusalem? You're a senior minister in the government, you deal with the most sensitive security issues. Why do you want to deal with trash collection and what stays open, when?

Jerusalem is not just another city. Certainly not to someone like me, who came from the Zionist underground in the Soviet Union all the way to Jerusalem with $150 in my pocket. The challenges facing Jerusalem are extremely complex.  These challenges are of national and even international significance.

I have been involved in solving Jerusalem's long-term challenges for years. I have been the person whose job it is to solve the problems that arose between Jerusalem and the national government, and there were certainly plenty of those. And under my leadership, the Ministry for Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage raised an estimated NIS 4 billion for Jerusalem. This includes investments in strategic development, new infrastructure, and attracting hi-tech to the city.

We need to stabilize the municipal budget. The city's expenses grow by around 5 percent every year. When people hear the numbers, and how many millions of shekels come from the national government to support Jerusalem every year, they start to understand the scope of the problem. We can't keep having fights like we've had in the past if we're going to solve the budget. This is hard, but it is possible, and we need all the groups working together to do this, not fighting one with another.

And speaking of picking up the trash, it's a very important issue, and I'll continue to spearhead the value of the cleanliness of the city.  I have years of experience overseeing the proper removal of trash across Israel as Environmental Protection Minister. As Jerusalem Affairs Minister, I prioritized cleanliness in the capital and transferred NIS 150 million to Jerusalem to create a clean city where people want to live visit. I’ll be out there in the morning making sure the trash get picked up on time, and the city becomes one of the cleanest in the country. The city will be cleaner under my watch, period.


Finally, why should Olim support you?

First, I know what it means to dream about making Aliyah and then to have the opportunity to do so. I grew up under the Soviet Union and joined the Zionist Underground.  I learned Hebrew secretly, taught Hebrew, started Bnei Akiva, and was finally able to move to Israel. Indeed, like so many others, I understand personally the excitement and the challenges that come with Aliyah.

Second, my “Jerusalem Will Succeed” list has the most Olim in prominent positions, with four out of the top six spots filled by Olim.

Third, Olim, much like other Jerusalemites, want to come to a city that is clean, safe, full of economic opportunities, and offers affordable housing. They want to know that they will be able to find a job that matches their unique education and skills they developed in their countries of origin. They want to know that they will be able to own a piece of Jerusalem, and live in a comfortable home in which they can raise a family. They want to not only be part of Jerusalem's future, but also want to lead it.  

That was my dream as an oleh.

With your vote and support, I will be able to create a more unified, prosperous, and safer Jerusalem, with clear Israeli sovereignty being exercised on the ground in every single neighborhood.  This will become Jerusalem's reality under Ze'ev Elkin.

To learn more, see www.elkin4jerusalem.org.il

And to see more about Ze'ev Elkin's platform for Jerusalem, please click here.

        
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