Barkat was elected as a city councilman in the 2003 election, and since 2008 has been the mayor of Jerusalem.
“Sixteen years ago I left my privacy and my businesses, and with a salary of one shekel a year, I was devoted to saving Jerusalem, the city I grew up and raised my family in,” he said in a Facebook video in which he announced that he will not run for mayor again.
“For an entire decade, along with many partners – such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – we made historic change in the city, and restored Jerusalem to the path of growth. And now we passed the largest budget in the history of the city,” Barkat said.
“After Jerusalem went back on track, I will not run for a third term as mayor,” he said.
“At the end of my term I will leave City Hall, but I will never leave Jerusalem. The success of united Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, is the success of Israel,” he added.
Barkat then said that he decided that now is the time, “to serve Israel at the national level, and strengthen the Likud movement.”
Barkat, who is a venture capitalist with a net worth in the hundreds of millions, vowed that he would also receive an annual salary of one shekel in any future post. He has spent massive amounts on events for Likud activists over the past two years, taking advantage of a loophole that did not subject him to campaign spending limits, because he did not announce his candidacy until Sunday.
After his public announcement, Barkat personally informed Netanyahu, who told him on video that he “welcomed him with open arms,” and jokingly offered his condolences along with his blessings.
Netanyahu’s number two in the Likud, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, praised Barkat, calling him “a quality public leader with a proven record of experience and getting things done,” saying that he was sure Barkat would strengthen Likud on a national level.
The candidates for mayor are expected to include deputy mayor Moshe Lion, who ran against Barkat in the 2013 election; Hitorerut Party head and municipal opposition leader Ofer Berkovich; former municipal prosecutor Yossi Havilio; and Barkat’s former adviser Avi Salman.
But bigger names are thought to be considering joining the race – including Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, coalition chairman David Amsalem, and former MK Erel Margalit.
Amsalem convened supporters at his home Saturday night to consult with them. He told them he would seriously consider running if there won’t be a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) candidate in the race – such as city councilman Yossi Daitch – and if he could obtain haredi support.