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Cities across Israel go on strike to protest tax transfer plan

The “Arnona Fund” would see wealthier municipalities subsidize poorer ones with local business property taxes.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting of his Religious Zionism Party in Givat Harel, Feb. 14, 2023. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting of his Religious Zionism Party in Givat Harel, Feb. 14, 2023. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.

Municipalities across Israel went on strike on Monday in protest against a government plan being pushed by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to transfer funds from wealthier cities to less affluent ones.

The Federation of Local Authorities, which represents around 200 municipalities, launched the open-ended strike.

Cities on strike include Tel Aviv, Holon, Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, Rishon Lezion, Herzliya, Hod Hasharon, Modi’in, Ramle, Ness Ziona, Ashdod, Hadera, Haifa, Nesher, Beit She’an, Kiryat Ono, Shoham, Ganei Tikva, Yokne’am, Maale Gilboa and Eilat.

Several regional councils were also reportedly participating in the strike, which is affecting basic services for residents and shuttering the education system.

School classroom. Credit: Pixabay.

Jerusalem, Lod, Ashkelon and Harish are not participating.

At issue is a proposed business property tax fund that would see wealthier municipalities subsidize lower-income communities to incentivize the construction of affordable housing.

The Knesset’s Finance Committee on Sunday approved the inclusion of the “Arnona Fund” as part of the Arrangements Bill presented alongside the 2023-2024 state budget. The Arrangements Bill includes the government’s economic priorities.

“This law is not acceptable to the Federation of Local Authorities,” Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut Mayor Haim Bibas said on Sunday, according to Arutz Sheva. “We oppose it and have opposed it from the beginning. It is contrary to any concept of municipal rule and central government-municipal government relations.”

Smotrich, the head of the Religious Zionist Party, stood firm following the start of the shutdown, saying at a press conference that “we will not give in to threats and blackmail and will act professionally for the benefit of the State of Israel and the citizens of Israel,” Channel 12 reported.

“We must not give in to threats and violence. We are on the way to major struggles against tremendous market forces that concentrate in their hands a tremendous power that we are going to take from them—to break up centralization and monopolies,” the minister continued.

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