Olmert to Keep Religious Status Quo

Despite his last-minute deal with Orthodox voters, the mayorelect has vowed to maintain the status quo of religion in Jerusalem.

Ehud Olmert, whose victory Tuesday ended the 28-year career of Teddy Kollek, said bars, restaurants and cinemas that are currently open on Friday nights would remain open.

New entertainment spots would be permitted to open if they did not “disrupt the life of the neighborhood,” he said.

In a city where tensions between religious groups simmer, the opening of commercial establishments on the Sabbath has been a sensitive issue, and there have been violent confrontations between observant and secular Jews on occasion.

At a news conference Wednesday, Olmert hastened to make clear that despite the deal he orchestrated with the city’s fervently Orthodox Jews, which won him that community’s votes, he would not give in to Orthodox demands in a way that would change city life “one iota.”

He denied that there had been a “sellout,” and stressed that he would have won without the Orthodox votes but with a slimmer margin.

Olmert said the Orthodox would become “major partners” in the city’s coalition, describing the start of a “foundation for cooperation” for the next five years.

The needs of the religious “must be recognized within reasonable limits,” he said.

Olmert also said he regretted that Kollek, who “played a historic role” in Jerusalem, had been forced out. “He deserved a more graceful retirement,” Olmert said.

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