Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Profile: Nir Barkat

Nir Barkat
Nir Barkat was on his second attempt to become Jerusalem mayor

Jerusalem's new mayor, Nir Barkat, is the great hope of the city's secular Jewish community.

The well-dressed, smooth-tongued former high-tech business executive has said he is "determined to save the city".

Jerusalem is proclaimed as Israel's capital although other countries do not recognise and East Jerusalem occupied territory.

However, it is also one of Israel's poorest cities and faces a brain drain as young and secular residents leave.

Mr Barkat's predecessor, Rabbi Uri Lupolianski, came from the city's growing population of highly religious ultra-Orthodox Jews, and was widely perceived to have favoured them.

Job shortages and soaring house prices have struck across the board, but the city's non-religious residents are also worried about the expansion of the conservative ultra-Orthodox communities into new neighbourhoods.

Left Kadima

Mr Barkat, a father of three and former paratrooper, has promised to draw investment back to the city and build it up as an international tourist destination.

More controversially, he has said he hopes to build more Jewish homes in Palestinian and Israeli-Arab areas in the east of the city - occupied by Israel in 1967 - and is adamant that the city should not be divided.

The possible division of Jerusalem under a future peace deal is one of the most explosive issues in peace talks.

This is the issue over which Mr Barkat left the centrist Kadima party, currently engaged in discussions with the Palestinians in which the status of Jerusalem is widely assumed to be on the negotiating table.

Mr Barkat was born in 1959 in Jerusalem and gained degrees in computer science and business management in the city, before going on to found the BRM Group, a pioneer of anti-virus software.

In 2003 he suspended his growing portfolio of business activities in the hi-tech sphere and was elected onto the Jerusalem city council, where he led the opposition until his election as mayor.

The founder of Startup Jerusalem, a body which seeks to promote private investment in the city, he also set up New Spirit, an organisation which supports students in Jerusalem.

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