New Bill Seeks to Solve Yerushalayim Funding, Once and for All

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, family, friends, and members of the Har Nof synagogue, attend the memorial ceremony marking one year since the deadly terror attack on the synagogue worshippers at the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem, on November 18, 2015. Photo by Flash90 *** Local Caption *** èøåø àæëøä è÷ñ æëø ùðä ÷åøáðåú ôéâåò áéú äëðñú äø ðåó éøåùìéí îùôçä çáøéí øàù äòéø ðéø áø÷ú
Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat. (Flash90)

A joint proposal by four parties that usually don’t agree on much – the Likud, Zionist Camp, Jewish Home and Yisrael Beitenu – aims to resolve an ongoing dispute between the city of Yerushalayim and the Finance Ministry, in which Nir Barkat, mayor of the former, claims that Moshe Kachlon, head of the latter, refuses to discuss the city’s special budget needs. The law proposed by MKs from the four parties seeks to do an end run around Kachlon, providing Yerushalayim with nearly a billion shekels for those “special needs.”

For a number of reasons – some of them rumored to be based on the personal relationship between Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon – Yerushalayim, according to Barkat, had been “shortchanged” in its annual budget. With the city required to supply security personnel and services for visiting dignitaries, Barkat demanded an additional allocation from the Treasury, beyond the funding the city was determined to be eligible for.

The matter could have been resolved at a meeting between Barkat and Kachlon – but such meetings never materialized; both the city and the Ministry blamed the other for the failure to meet and for the budget crisis, with Barkat saying that Kachlon has even ignored his phone messages requesting an opportunity to discuss matters.

According to some sources, the reason for the animosity is that Barkat is seen by Kachlon as a potential challenger on the national political scene, likely to take voters from Kachlon’s Kulanu party should he decide to run. Beyond that, there is bad blood between Barkat and Kachlon over the resignation of the latter’s brother, Koby, as Yerushalayim deputy mayor last year. Moshe Kachlon is said to feel that Barkat did not stand up for Koby over a lawsuit and allegations of impropriety against him.

Last year, Yerushalayim received an additional NIS 50 million to its annual budget, bringing the total budget for 2016 to NIS 499 million as an emergency measure, after the city had made plans to fire thousands of workers because it said it could not afford to pay them. Some 200 sanitation workers and hundreds of social workers were slated to be fired. That money, however, came only after Minister for Yerushalayim Affairs Ze’ev Elkin intervened, negotiating the extra funds with Kachlon. The new bill will eliminate the need for any negotiation, MKs sponsoring it said, with the city receiving the money it needs to conduct its affairs.