JERUSALEM (Feb. 21)
Will Ragheb Bey Nashashibi, present Mayor of Jerusalem and head of one of the great Moslem clans of Palestine, continue in office after the municipal elections are held throughout the land, even though he is not returned at the polls?
That is a question which now agitates the minds of all communities here. For there is opposition to Ragheb Bey not only among the Jews, because of his openly-expressed anti-Zionist views and his public flouting of Jewish civic rights, but also among a section of his own Moslem compatriots.
The mayor of Jerusalem need not necessarily be previously elected a councilor by public suffrage according to the provisions of the new Municipal Corporations Ordinance. The High Commissioner may appoint two councilors in Jerusalem, while the mayoralty is also an appointed office. That means that the administration may appoint a non-elected man a councilor and then the mayor.
Undoubtedly the mayoralty of Jerusalem is the key to British policy in Palestine, and it is unlikely that the Palestine administration will allow that fact to escape it when considering who is to head the “city fathers” of Jerusalem for the next few years.
According to well-informed quarters here, the likeliest mayor of Jerusalem under the new countrywide civic regime will be none other than the present incumbent of that office, Ragheb Bey Nashashibi.
It would be sanguine to expect Ragheb Bey not to continue in his present office. According to an informant, Ragheb himself has let some hints drop that he has practically been promised the post he now holds for as long as he wishes—for life, if he feels that way. It is not unnatural that this promise should have been made by the British authorities, the informant declared, because they are interested in keeping the Moslems divided into parties, and Ragheb is their safest trump card in the complicated local game.
Many people here, with a knowledge of the workings of the local political machine and a practical experience of the tortuosities of the Moslem mind, take a fatalistic view of the situation. “Ragheb is in for life,” is their prediction, and nothing is going to shake him off his high municipal horse. British officials in the East inevitably are influenced by environmental factors, and Ragheb Bey is one of these factors; and no amount of argument with officialdom will change their attitude.
The same perhaps holds true with the mayor of Jaffa, Azam Bey Said, who is another firm favorite with the high British pundits here. But not so the other mayors, who are in a quandary as to their future: they declared at their last conference to discuss the then unenacted Municipal Corporation Bill that unless every inch of their demands was granted, they would resign. Many of their proposals were thrown overboard by the government, but they did not resign, nor did they pay heed to the urgings of Musa Kazem Pasha Al-Husseini, president of the Arab Executive, who circularized them to keep their promise and quit.
Their quandary now is how to counter the eventual Arab Executive propaganda at polling-time and justify their failure to carry out threats of resignation. Azam Bey Said, mayor of Jaffa, is said to have replied to an overture to take part in a boycott of the municipal elections, that he would do so if he were guaranteed that no one else would put forward his candidacy for the mayoralty—a sure sign that he hopes, notwithstanding the popular vote, to retain that office!