Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Hard-Liners Work to End an Era in Jerusalem Vote Mayor Teddy Kollek Challenged by Likud Candidate for Right to Mold City's Future

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Hard-Liners Work to End an Era in Jerusalem Vote Mayor Teddy Kollek Challenged by Likud Candidate for Right to Mold City's Future

Article excerpt

JERUSALEM without Mayor Teddy Kollek is hard to imagine. Mr. Kollek, who has been in office for the past 28 years, has become almost as famous as many of the city's landmarks.

But as Jerusalemites vote in municipal elections tomorrow, many are going to be thinking the unthinkable. "Teddy," as he is known to friends and enemies alike, may have reached the end of the road. Mr. Kollek is neck and neck in opinion polls with challenger Ehud Olmert, a minister in Yitzhak Shamir's former Likud government, who has campaigned almost exclusively on one theme: The mayor is too old.

At 83, Kollek disappointed even his supporters by running for a seventh term since he said last year that "only a fool would run at my age, and only a fool would vote for him if he did."

But that was before Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin strong-armed him into the race, convincing him that nobody else could keep City Hall out of the Likud's hands.

Kollek has responded to Mr. Olmert's comments on his age with attacks on his rival's character, branding him a liar and worse, in a campaign that has been as dirty and as devoid of issues as any political commentator here can remember.

The emptiness of the debate is particularly striking because these are momentous days for Jerusalem, the holy city that is at the heart of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians; both peoples claim the city as their capital.

Although negotiations on Jerusalem's future have been put off until the end of the peace talks for fear that the issue could blow up the whole process, the question looms large on the horizon.

KOLLEK and Olmert are agreed that Jerusalem should eternally remain the undivided capital of Israel, as it was declared in 1967 when Israeli troops captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six-Day War.

The mayor, however, is playing up his image as a conciliatory man, whose pragmatism has helped secular and orthodox Jews and Christian and Muslim Palestinians to live more or less peacefully together in a potentially explosive city. …

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