Just hours before the expected tense funeral procession for Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Ab Akleh began, Jerusalem Mayor Moshelion took the time to answer questions in advance of the 55th anniversary.
Lion is the first mayor to be elected without his own council faction. He has been able to include representatives from a variety of views into his coalition, including Laura Wharton and Yossi Halio. However, no less than 17 seats are currently held by representatives representing the ultra-Orthodox section. Some argue that he is being held captive by the haredi representatives. Others point out his accomplishments. Lion insists that the status quo is acceptable despite all attempts to challenge it. He has no plans to confront either side.
At the beginning of Lion’s term, the government made a huge investment to improve the condition in the east. Lion believes that because of the cleanliness and improved infrastructure, as well as the schools he has built in the east, he can also purchase peace and security.
This is your fourth Jerusalem Day as an office holder. What does it make you feel beyond the speeches and slogans?
Every day is full of joy and excitement. It is an important and responsible role to be the mayor of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a small country. Jerusalem has undergone the recovery process I promised to start since my first day in office. Today I can look back with great satisfaction and see that a lot of it is happening.
Residents see mainly traffic jams, construction, and dust.
These processes can take time. However, they cannot be stopped. It was crucial to improve the image of a city that is dirty in the short-term. Before I was elected mayor, it was a promise I made to myself, not the voters but myself, that this would be the first issue I dealt with when I am elected. Today, I can tell you that Jerusalem is among the cleanest in the country.
Renovating sidewalks requires large investments.
This was the second task I took on myself: to renovate Jerusalem’s streets so everyone can see how beautiful it is. King David Street now has the honor of King David Street. I will ensure that this is done in every neighborhood.
While beautiful streets and sidewalks are important, is this enough to attract the younger generation?
This city should be a magnet for all young people. Because I wasn’t born in Jerusalem, I am able to compare Jerusalem. It is a fascinating city, with an amazing culture and great education.
This is what we all agree on, but how do you promote this vision?
To achieve this, I needed to work at three levels: employment, housing construction, and mass transportation. We have built between 2,000 to 2,300 apartments per annum over the past 15 years. That’s all. We managed to build 5,400 housing units in 2021. We will have 6,000 housing units by 2022, and the same number in 2023. This is a significant change.
They are still very expensive. It is not possible to buy an apartment in Jerusalem. It is not possible for young couples to buy an apartment in Jerusalem.
They are still expensive, but they wouldn’t be as expensive if I didn’t push for them [construction projects]. However, to reduce prices one must increase the supply.
How about encouraging long-term, affordable rentals? What about your involvement in pushing the government towards lower plot prices? Don’t hesitate to exert pressure
We are first building apartments for long-term rental. The only way to build on Jerusalem’s land is through urban renewal. We also want to protect the green spaces. In the Katamonim and Kiryat Yovel neighborhoods, I initiated renewal construction projects.