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Cabinet launches NIS 100m plan to ‘strengthen Jerusalem’

Money to help businesses avoid closure, increase tourism to capital and fortify city’s position as academic hub

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in a protest in mid-November calling on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon "not to disconnect from Jerusalem." (Courtesy Jerusalem Municipality)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in a protest in mid-November calling on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon "not to disconnect from Jerusalem." (Courtesy Jerusalem Municipality)

The cabinet on Sunday approved a plan to strengthen Jerusalem economically following three months of terror attacks that saw streets emptying of shoppers and businesses struggling to remain open.

Presented by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, the plan would allocate NIS 100 million ($26 million) for developing the business sector in the city, encouraging tourism, strengthening Jerusalem as a center of academia and giving businesses convenient payment plans for paying tax debts.

The plan was presented after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat ran a campaign over the past few weeks pressuring Kahlon “not to abandon Jerusalem.” Barkat recruited municipality workers for the campaign and at one point earlier this month a garbage truck bearing an anti-Kahlon poster was parked for hours across the street from the Knesset.

During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, when the plan was announced, Barkat apologized for his personal campaign against Kahlon. According to Channel 10, Barkat said he was sorry for targeting the finance minister and noted that Jerusalem was a matter of national importance.

In what Channel 10 called an act of “revenge” by Kahlon and Elkin against Barkat earlier this month, Elkin’s ministry announced that it would transfer the money earmarked for small- and medium-sized businesses directly through the ministry and not via the municipality.

Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon at the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem, July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon at the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem, July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Barkat, according to the station, agreed to meet Elkin. He had until now avoided meeting with the minister, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reneged on a promise he had made to the mayor to appoint him as minister of Jerusalem affairs. Netanyahu broke the promise soon after election as he was building his coalition.

In a statement from the Foreign Ministry announcing the plan, Kahlon was quoted as saying, “Today we are strengthening the residents of Jerusalem and the small and medium-sized businesses during this tough time and we are saying to them – we are all here for you. Jerusalem is our eternal capital and it was and remains at the top of the national priority list.”

The statement issued Sunday as well as the previous statement from Elkin’s office made no mention of Barkat.

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