Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Friday spoke with Arutz Sheva in honor of Jerusalem Day this coming Sunday, and said he hopes the building freeze implemented by the government on the eastern part of the capital will be lifted.
According to Barkat, Jerusalem has significantly developed in the past year despite the Arab terror wave that has largely focused on the city since breaking out last September. The attacks have already claimed the lives of 34 victims.
"As Jerusalemites we proved that we are firm and know how to cope without running. They told me in the past that it is impossible to change the trends and the difficulties, but here every year Jerusalem advances at a considerable pace," said Barkat.
"Jerusalemites know how to continue their routine and I believe that if we dealt with a complicated year like the last one – I am very optimistic regarding the future," added the mayor, who recently joined Likud.
When asked when the Jewish construction freeze in neighborhoods over the 1949 Armistice line will be lifted, and whether the freeze influences the sensitive demographic balance in the capital, Barkat blamed the government for the state of affairs.
"I don't like the freeze that was forced on us by the government. I warn about it," he said. "I hope they will lower the glass ceiling for us on the scope of activities that we do in Jerusalem in the eastern part of the city. We have to build in Jerusalem in every place, to enable every place in Jerusalem to develop and flourish to all sectors."
Barkat emphasized that "for all that is related to the Jerusalem municipality, in the local planning and construction committee there are no obstructions and there is more than a little development activity via the committee. There is room to demand freeing up more construction for us because that's important to the city of Jerusalem."
While Barkat blamed the government for the building freeze, Jerusalem councilman Arieh King has long argued that Barkat is himself an active accomplice in the de facto division of the capital, by not enforcing the law in the Arab majority neighborhoods.
In making the argument King has said that Barkat in March 2015 created a "new Arab neighborhood" in his urban construction plan, in a particular threat to the demographic balance given the fact that Jerusalem already has over 40,000 illegal Arab housing units rising at a pace of 700-800 new illegal units annually.
Partially due to that state of affairs and the Jewish construction freeze that has seriously hiked housing prices, Jerusalem leads the country in negative migration of Jews.
When asked about the phenomenon of youths leaving the city, Barkat spoke about education in the capital and said there is an increase in the number of students.
He said the growth rate of the Jewish Zionist sector in Jerusalem is balanced against the Arab and haredi sectors, and said Jerusalem is "becoming attractive to youths."
Speaking about Jerusalem Day which this year marks 49 years since the liberation of the city in the 1967 Six Day War, Barkat said the day for him "is a day in which you look back and give an accounting to the fallen who are not with us."
"Jerusalem Day is not only a holiday, but rather an opportunity to look at the achievements and to redefine new achievements for the coming years. We all understand how much Jerusalem impacts not only Israel but the entire world."