Sderot Mayor David Buskila announced a hunger strike to protest the government’s lack of budgetary support for the rocket-battered town, setting up a tent in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Buskila, who said he was demonstrating on behalf of all the town’s 20,000 residents, said the protest had been planned before southern Israel was pounded by some 80 rockets fired from Gaza over the course of the day.
Buskila accused the government of failing to support a recovery program for the town, which has been buffeted by rocket attacks for the last decade. The municipality says it fulfilled its part of the program and that the state committed to fund the rest, but has yet to follow through.
According to Buskila, the municipality has thus far received only NIS 7 million out of NIS 70 million in aid money allocated for it under the recovery program.
Employees of the Sderot municipality on Sunday went on strike and rallied in front of Prime Minister’s Office to protest the city’s troubled finances.
The town, located less than a mile from the Gaza Strip, has been a target of Kassam rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled enclave for over a decade. The rocket attacks on the town have caused damage estimated in millions of dollars and have profoundly disrupted everyday life there.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama said during a televised debate with challenger Mitt Romney that a visit to the town in 2007 had influenced his decision to fund the Iron Dome anti-missile battery system.
Buskila said Obama’s expression of solidarity with Sderot seemed in stark contrast to Jerusalem’s commitment to the town.
“World leaders, starting with the president of the United States, mention Sderot and their concern for it as an expression of their concern for Israel, its strength and resilience,” he said. “I regret that the strength and resilience of Sderot are met with complete indifference by Israel’s prime minister and his finance minister.”
The Interior Ministry responded that the government had poured money into the town’s recovery program and it was up to the city to use it effectively.