Despite the almost insurmountable obstacles that stand before him, Sa’ara is determined to try his hand.
“Many people in Al Quds want to see a change,” he told Ynet, referring to Jerusalem by its Arabic name. “The municipality demands that we pay taxes, more than 300 million shekels every year, but we don’t get our rights. The time has come to demand our rights from the municipality.”
Before able to enter the race, Sa’ara is required to first petition the High Court of Justice, a stumbling block that could frustrate his hopes from the outset.
“That’s the point. Residents of eastern Jerusalem can vote but can’t run. My Israeli friends always say to me: ‘If you were to enter into the democratic process…’ and I explain to them that it isn’t so easy. In a city in which a third of the population is Palestinian, a Palestinian can’t be a mayor. It’s not normal,” he complained.
Asked about his vision for Jerusalem, Sa’ara said that he wanted to see an “Al Quds where people receive their rights.”
“This week there was no garbage collection in almost any of the areas. We call the municipality and no one answers because they don’t care. We don’t exists as far as the municipality is concerned” he asserted.
According to Sa’ara, east Jerusalem’s education system is also failing due to the fact that it is lacking “thousands of classrooms.”
“I want it to be possible to build legally and no home demolitions. That is not only good for us, the Palestinians. I think it is also good for Jews. You can’t live in a city where half of it are on another level,” he said.
Sa’ara also offered an explanation as to why Palestinians failed to vote in the last municipal elections.
“They had no one to vote for. I hope that this time they will have and that I am not going in alone. That notwithstanding, there are dozens of places to vote on the Jewish side. On the Palestinian side there are only three or four places,” he explained.
Sa’ara explained the logistical issues involved in voting, insisting that to do so is more hassle than it is worth.
“You have to go through checkpoints in the morning, take three buses to get to the ballot box, vote and then go home. It takes 6-7 hours and that’s the reason people don’t vote,” Sa’ara concluded.
Asked why he insists on referring to Jerusalem as Al Quds, Sa’ara simply said that he was simply employing the Arabic term.
“I think that’s OK. You can call it Jerusalem and I can call it Al Quds. We also live in two cities—Jerusalem is different. I lived in the west as well … and I know the difference,” he continued. “It’s not the same city. Everything is different. This whole thing of a united city doesn’t exist.”
Sa’ara refused to say, however, whether he was pledging to divide Jerusalem in the event that he ran a victorious electoral campaign.
“I’m not talking about politics at all. I am not talking about how the conflict will end. There is Netanyahu and there is Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and they can talk and think about how to end the conflict. I want them (the Arabs) to receive their rights. I want people to know that we exists and that we are not moving. We are not leaving this city.”