After 28 Years, Changing of the Guard As Olmert Takes the Helm in Jerusalem

The torch of municipal leadership was officially passed Monday night as the new Likud party mayor, Ehud Olmert, gave his inaugural speech before the first meeting of the new City Council.

He paid tribute to the man he defeated, Teddy Kollek, who used the opportunity to resign from the City Council, as was expected.

The bulk of Olmert’s speech was devoted to the centrality of Jerusalem in the history and spiritual life of the Jews.

And that centrality, he warned, is immutable.

“Peaceful relations between us and our neighbors will not take place unless they recognize our deep attachment as a nation to Jerusalem,” Olmert said.

While the “desires and needs of the other side” must be understood, he said, “it will be not be possible to reach true peace at the price of concessions on the most basic core, the deepest and most essential element of the contents of our national existence.”

A political solution with the Palestinians can “in no way be based on any denial of Jewish sovereignty on all Jerusalem,” he declared.

Olmert emphasized that the city must cul- tivate relations based on respect, tolerance and consideration for its non-Jewish residents.

He also was careful to stress that despite the Election Eve deal he made with the ardently Orthodox, the city’s pluralistic character will be maintained.

“There is no danger that any group in the population will determine the lifestyle of the entire public against its will,” he said.

“But there is a real chance that for the first time, there will be true partnership in the running of the city by various parties, yes, even those who are called religious and ultra-Orthodox,” the mayor said.

President Ezer Weizman began the Council meeting with blessings and praise for the “new generation” of leadership signified by Olmert’s takeover.

Olmert then read a letter from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who is in Europe, who pledged his government’s support for the new city government.

After the election, Rabin had expressed deep disappointment at Kollek’s loss and blamed himself for pressing 82-year-old Kollek to run again, despite his wish to retire.

Kollek, for his part, bid farewell to the City Council. He recited the accomplishments of his tenure of nearly three decades, and expressed his fervent wish the city would remain unified and peaceful.

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