Barcelona mayor who cut ties with Tel Aviv loses reelection bid

Ada Colau, who generated backlash with her move to end twin city agreement, defeated by former mayor she unseated in 2015

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau speaks on May 28, 2023, after the local and regional elections held in Spain. (Joseph Lago/AFP)
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau speaks on May 28, 2023, after the local and regional elections held in Spain. (Joseph Lago/AFP)

MADRID (JTA) — Ada Colau, Barcelona’s left-wing mayor who made headlines for breaking off the city’s long-standing relationship with Tel Aviv, was unseated in Sunday’s municipal elections after eight years in power.

She was defeated by Xavier Trias, the right-wing candidate from the Junts party, a former mayor who Colau had previously unseated in 2015.

Colau, known in the past for backing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, caused a media stir last February when she opted to dissolve the twin city pact between Barcelona and Tel Aviv. The Catalan capital had been twinned with the Israeli city for 25 years.

Addressing Prime Minister Netanyahu in a written letter, Colau wrote in February that around 4,000 constituents had petitioned her to “condemn the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, support Palestinian and Israeli organizations striving for peace, and nullify the twinning contract between Barcelona and Tel Aviv.”

The move was met with sharp disapproval by the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Spain, which condemned the move as “sophisticated antisemitism.”

Shortly after, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, the mayor of Madrid who won reelection last weekend, offered to twin the Spanish capital with Tel Aviv.

“It would be an honor to be twinned with Tel Aviv,” he wrote in February.

Political figures on the right in Spain, including Martínez-Almeida, a member of the People’s Party, have been making diplomatic and commercial overtures toward Israel in recent years. Despite his proposal, the Madrid government has not announced specific plans for actualizing a twin-city relationship.

Previously a housing rights activist, Colau has cited “the recurring human rights infringements against the Palestinian population and non-adherence to United Nations resolutions” as her reasoning for the Israeli boycott.

Around 3,500 Jews live in Barcelona as of 2022.

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