Photo Credit: Kobi Richter/TPS
A press conference at Israel's Ministry of Finance

Over 150 local authority leaders, who represent nearly 70% of Israeli residents, on Monday sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all Members of Knesset (MKs), threatening to strike if the NIS one billion needed for civil programs is not transferred in the near future.

The letter was an initiative led by the three major local authority unions and signed by various regional and local council leaders, as well as mayors from the Jewish, Arab and Druze sectors.

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The local authority leaders called on the MKs to allow local government to fulfill its role with the necessary budget, particularly in the absence of a functioning national government.

“Especially at this time, when local authorities are the most stable government in the country, enabling the daily lives of residents, the people must be placed ahead of politics and coalition deals, and the required budgets must be found,” the letter read.

The leaders threatened to launch a general strike on Thursday.

The letter referred to the political turmoil at the national level, in which two consecutive election cycles took place, for the first time in Israel’s history, after Netanyahu failed to form a government following the first elections in April.

The political forecast remains bleak, as no candidate seemingly has enough support to form a stable government. A third election cycle may be inevitable if no government is formed in the coming weeks.

The budgetary concern of local authority leaders stems from the ballooning national deficit, which reached NIS 30.9 billion in September. In response to the crisis, the treasury has refrained from handing out the entire surplus budget, which is usually given to ministries and local authorities towards the end of the year.

The treasury did secure a total of NIS 1.3 billion from the budget surplus to fund certain extra-budgetary programs. These expenses reportedly include preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and salaries for community center workers.

Some projects, however, remain underfunded due to the deficit crisis and may be canceled this year.

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