All the country's local authorities are expected to begin an open-ended strike on Sunday morning except Jerusalem, Lod, Ashdod, Haifa and the Haifa suburb of Nesher. ULA Chairman Shlomo Buhbut said the strike was the largest ever by Israeli cities.

The action would take place despite efforts to head it off on Friday at a meeting between the Union of Local Authorities and the interior and finance ministers.

In the negotiations, treasury officials accused Buhbut of wanting to strike at any cost. The ULA, meanwhile, blames Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for not meeting any of its demands on education funding, social-welfare funding, water rates and equalization payments to municipalities with revenue shortfalls.

The Education Ministry called on schools to open today despite the strike, and teachers' unions instructed teachers to report to work. At elementary schools, teachers are state employees, but many junior-high and high-school teachers are employed by local authorities.

Parents are advised to check with their local schools regarding the strike. Some disruptions at schools, kindergartens and nursery schools are possible. Personnel such as secretaries, classroom assistants and maintenance staff on local authorities' payrolls are expected to be absent from some schools. School bus transportation is also expected to be affected.

School security guards are also employed by local authorities, and the teachers' union reported on Saturday that the police have instructed schools to provide guards despite the strike. The union, which represents mostly elementary school teachers, said if guards are not provided, classes will not be held.

Regional-council staff will join the strike but will keep the school systems in their communities open. For the first time, special-education operations at the local authorities will be halted.

The labor action will shut down municipal services such as garbage collection, social-welfare services, and offices that normally receive members of the public, including social workers' services, clubs for children and the elderly, veterinary services and the issuing of parking tickets.

Fire and rescue services will operate on a reduced footing but will still respond to fires and provide rescue services. Day-care centers run by private organizations such as Na'amat and WIZO will operate normally.

Local authorities say the state has increased the financial burden created by services they are required to provide, but has cut funding. Local officials say education and welfare allocations have been cut by about NIS 500 million and that the NIS 2.4 billion received in state equalization payments should be increased to NIS 3 billion.

Buhbut said the local authorities are in effect subsidizing the state "and are near collapse, and on the day we collapse, the State of Israel will collapse. "We are fighting for the quality of the education our children will receive, over the price of water, which has tripled to the consumer over the past three years without any justification, and over the authorities' budgets."