After much speculation, Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat announced on Sunday that he will run in the next national elections with the Likud Party, and will not present his candidacy for mayor in the upcoming October municipal election.
Barkat was elected as a city councilman in 2003 and has served as mayor of Yerushalayim since November 2008.
He announced the move after successfully passing his city’s municipal budget last Thursday.
“Sixteen years ago I left my private businesses and, receiving a salary of one shekel a year, devoted myself to saving Yerushalayim, the city I grew up and raised my family in,” he said in a social media post where he announced that he will not run for mayor again.
“For an entire decade, and alongside many partners – such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – we made a historical change in the city, and restored Yerushalayim to the path of growth. Now we passed the largest budget in the history of the city.
“After Yerushalayim is back on track, I will will not run for a third term as mayor,” he said.
“At the end of my term I will leave City Hall, but I will never leave Yerushalayim. The success of united Yerushalayim, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, is the success of Israel,” Barkat added.
Barkat retained relatively high popularity in a city comprising religious, chareidi and secular Jews, as well as Arab residents of East Yerushalayim.
This announcement opens the race for the municipal elections.
After Barkat’s announcement, his rival in the 2013 municipal elections, Moshe Leon, announced he would run again for the position of mayor. “Five years ago, I decided to put my previous life aside, turned my efforts, abilities and talents into the best interests of Yerushalayim, and invested my energies as a member of the city council,” said Leon.
Other names in the race include Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Ofer Berkowitz and Meir Turgeman.
Last week a report said that Barkat was working with Likud MK David Amsalem, who will assist him in integrating in the party, while Amsalem would run for mayor with the backing of Barkat.
The chareidi parties have yet to make their decision.