Most Municipalities to Strike Over Cuts to Education Budget; Schools to Start Late

Most municipalities and local councils will strike today to protest education funding cuts in the proposed state budget, and the anticipated dismissal of thousands of teachers.

The strike was originally scheduled to last for two hours. However, following a confrontation in front of the Prime Minister's Office during a demonstration by mayors and council heads, and the refusal of Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with them, organizers decided to extend the strike to last an entire day.

All schools and kindergartens except institutions of special learning will be closed. Matriculation exams still will be held, though. Garbage will not be collected, nor will parking tickets be issued, and the various municipal offices will be closed to the public. Welfare offices will also be closed.

The strike will not take place in all municipalities, since Shlomo Buhbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, failed to rally all mayors to the cause. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai will not participate in the full-day strike, and the municipalities of Jerusalem and Haifa will also not strike.

The forum of 15 large municipalities decided they will strike for only two hours, from 8-10 A.M. In addition to the three largest cities, the forum includes the cities of Be'er Sheva, Rishon Letzion, Ashdod, Holon, Givatayim, Petah Tikvah, Netanya, Ra'anana, Kfar Sava, Herzliya, Hadera and Rehovot.

The mayors of Netanya and Beit Shean, who are members of Likud, criticized Buhbut for "extreme" conduct, and will probably not participate in the strike.

Sources close to Buhbut argue his critics "surrendered to pressure from Netanyahu's associates not to strike."

Buhbut has led the protest against the prime minister because he has not agreed to meet with the municipal leaders since his election, even though they have repeatedly requested a meeting.

Buhbut and several dozen municipal leaders tried to enter the Prime Minister's Office in order to meet Netanyahu, but they were pushed back by the security guards.

A fracas ensued and Buhbut was arrested. He was later released. After the incident Buhbut was received by the Director General of the Prime Minister's Office, but not by Netanyahu.

"I was sorry to find out that in spite of years of grassroots party work, the municipal leaders have managed to get nothing in return," Buhbut said. "We intend to establish a Party of Local Authorities, and prove what we are worth."