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Let's imagine that Ramat Aviv was a local authority and Jaffa was another, and the Interior Minister suggested that the two be combined to save jobs and superfluous duplication of resources.

Without doubt, some Ramat Aviv residents would be up in arms - asking why should they, with their high incomes and non-existent municipal deficits, subisidize a debt-laden, low-income place like Jaffa?

But in reality Ramat Aviv and Jaffa are joined as one - and rightly so from any social and economic point of view. This is the required community spirit. Racism, superciliousness and personal interest are behind opposition from many heads of local councils and their residents to the merger of authorities proposed by Minister Avraham Poraz.

Pardassiya is scheduled to merge with Kfar Yona. But Yitzhak Yemini, head of the Pardassiya council is against it because the decision was a "rushed job". But the process actually began in 1998, with a government report that recommended chopping authorities with less than 10,000 residents. In Israel there are an unbelievable 206 such authorities in a total 266.

Later the Interior Minister examined the conclusions and on every proposed merger, an appeals panel held an additional hearing - all in all, not quite a rushed job.

Danny Gur, chairman of Pardassiya's action committee added: "We'll take every legal step including closing the area and a tax revolt [that's not legal by the way], even selling our homes and leaving." Effy Deri, head of Kfar Yona's council, has a simple reply - "the issue is racism."

Shmuel Riffman, head of Ramat Hanegev Council told the appeals committee, "there are good people here who have done an unprofessional job." Eliahu Dadon, head of Bet Dagan council commented that there were people on the panels "who had been given instructions."

Well, hell hath no fury like someone about to lose their office, political clout, and power to hand out plum jobs. And this is Poraz's problem - to convince MKs and party heads to waive the opportunity of appointing hundreds of cronies and party hacks to sought-after slots in the local authorities.

The interior minister said he plans to bring the issue of merging local councils quickly to law, so that before local elections in October there will already be 43 fewer authorities.

But Abraham Hirchson, MK (Likud), chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, was quick to insist his committee will not be a rubber stamp for the interior ministry.

If he follows through with his threat, we will see the committee sitting on the bill until the summer recess - which, by the way, MKs are loathe to have shortened. Given the October elections, this will end up with the whole merger delayed for another five years.

As a result, Hirschson & Co. will be responsible for a serious cut in public services and welfare payments for 2004, because merging the local councils would have saved around NIS 1 billion a year.