Local Councils in Western Galilee Go on Strike

Mayor of Ma'alot-Tarshiha: 'Once we were development towns, now we're scorned towns.'

Yaron Kaminsky

Employees of the local councils in the Western Galilee will go on strike Wednesday in protest against their removal from the list of communities entitled to tax benefits. Offices will be closed to the public and employees in the school system, including guards, janitors, teachers’ aides and administrative staff, will not show up at work.

The decision to remove these communities from the list was taken at a meeting of the coalition party heads at the Prime Minister’s Office. The list was drawn up by Knesset Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism). The list also excludes 61 West Bank settlements, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi wanted included. Gafni also removed the towns that are now striking. He is expected to submit the list to the High Court of Justice for approval or rejection.

The mayors of Nahariya, Acre, Ma’alot-Tarshiha and the heads of the Mateh Asher and Mazra’a regional councils met and decided that if the strike is unsuccessful they will intensify their actions.

The mayor of Ma’alot-Tarshia, Shlomo Buhbut, who is heading the protest, said that they were waging a campaign of “no choice," maintaining that removal of the tax benefits would set these towns back by 20 to 30 years. “They forgot that we’re fulfilling a national role,” he said. “Our population is behind us, determined and patient.”

Buhbut added that the move would halt the marketing of 35,000 new housing units, leading to the departure of many residents. “Employers will also be faced with demands to increase wages or with departing employees.”

Nahariya mayor Jackie Sabag said these benefits attract people to the periphery. “Reducing these benefits will be a big blow” he said. Acre’s mayor Shimon Lankri said Israel’s strength will be determined by the strength of its periphery.