An Interview with Jerusalem’s Mayor

The Fellowship  |  May 17, 2017

Rabbi Eckstein sitting down with Jerusalem's Mayor during an interview with Israeli flags behind them.
An Interview with Jerusalem's Mayor

With Israel’s celebration of the 50-year anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification coming next week – not to mention Donald Trump’s first visit to the Holy Land as President – there is much on the minds of those of us who stand for Israel. And who better to speak on these queries and concerns than friend of The Fellowship and mayor of the Holy City, Nir Barkat? In this interview written up by The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren, Mayor Barkat says, “If there’s a road for peace, it goes through recognition of Jerusalem as our capital”:

“Everywhere you put a shovel in the ground there are Jewish roots. So we don’t need anybody to explain to us how the city was and will always be — Jewish, on one hand, but respectful of other religions on the other. I do think that the Trump administration understands that very well,” Barkat told journalists during a briefing on the sixth floor of City Hall.

“We don’t get excited by a statement by a person. Put it in perspective. We heard what Congress has to say, we heard what officials close to Trump have to say. And I believe this administration is much more open to the Israeli government’s point of view and the historical point of view. We’ll see how it develops.”

Barkat, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, also said he is not being pressured by anyone in the Trump administration to slow down construction in East Jerusalem.

Two days after Trump’s inauguration in January, Barkat enthusiastically welcomed the White House’s stated intention to discuss moving the embassy to Jerusalem. He hailed the president as a “true friend of Israel” and a “leader who keeps his promises,” gushing over the “clear message to the world that the US recognizes Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the State of Israel…”

Moving the embassy would not complicate efforts to reach Israeli-Palestinian peace, but, on the contrary, could be the first step toward an agreement, he further posited. No deal can be struck before the Palestinians drop their claim for Jerusalem, the mayor added. “There’s not going to be any peace if they don’t recognize Jerusalem as our capital and our right to exist in our country. By stuttering on this point the world is not helping to get a deal.”

He added: “If there’s a road for peace, it goes through recognition of Jerusalem as the capital [of Israel]. Not recognizing it defers a reasonably good deal in our region.”

Asked by The Times of Israel about Russia’s recent recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he replied, “It’s a good beginning. It’s the first half.”

But, Barkat added, “I expect much more from the American administration. My expectation is for them to go back and read the Bible, to best understand our history. If anybody has a claim to all of the city of Jerusalem and all of the land of Israel, it’s the Jewish state. That’s the claim. It’s in the Bible.”