Jerusalem Municipality begins firing over 2,000 workers amid budget crisis
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Jerusalem Municipality begins firing over 2,000 workers amid budget crisis

Mayor Nir Barkat says finance minister responsible for 'devastating blow,' and vows to do 'everything possible' to solve issue and prevent city from shutting down

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat holds a press conference at the Jerusalem Municipality regarding his dispute with the Finance Ministry over the city's budget, on January 1, 2018. (Flash90)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat holds a press conference at the Jerusalem Municipality regarding his dispute with the Finance Ministry over the city's budget, on January 1, 2018. (Flash90)

The Jerusalem Municipality began laying off 2,150 workers on Wednesday amid an ongoing budget dispute with the Finance Ministry that threatened to shut down much of the services offered by the city, Hebrew media reported.

One thousand dismissal notices were sent to municipality employees, among them 317 sanitation workers, 64 municipal police officers, 160 family health center workers, 18 employment assistants and 21 workers from the absorption authority, according to Hebrew media.

In addition, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat cut NIS 250 million’s worth ($72.4 million) in various municipal activities which is expected to result in the dismissal of an additional 1,150 workers, reports said.

Barkat has claimed that the Finance Ministry has been withholding hundreds of millions of shekels from the municipality in an effort by minister Moshe Kahlon to settle a score with the mayor, who supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the last elections instead of him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) flanked by Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (left) and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. (photo courtesy of Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) flanked by then Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (left) and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in 2013. (Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page)

In a statement announcing the Wednesday move, Barak said that Kahlon was responsible for the “devastating blow,” and vowed to “do everything possible to solve the crisis and prevent the city from shutting down.

“Kahlon has to show leadership and come out of hiding so that we can solve the crisis,” the statement added.

It then went on to detail the various cultural programs that the municipality had to cancel in the coming weeks due to lack of funds.

In a statement, the Finance Ministry rejected Barkat’s claims and said that Kahlon had actually increased budgeting for the capital.

The feud with Kahlon turned particularly ugly on Sunday when Jerusalem city garbage trucks dumped tons of trash outside the Finance Ministry in a move believed to have been green-lighted by Barkat.

A pile of garbage left by Jerusalem city workers in front of the Finance Ministry as part of the municipality’s dispute with the ministry over funding, on December 31, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Kahlon, a former minister in Netanyahu’s Likud party, established the Kulanu party as a socially conscious version of Likud, winning 10 seats in the 2015 elections.

Barkat claims the ostensible political vendetta is costing the capital hundreds of millions of shekels every year. The mayor also charges that Kahlon has not advanced in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation a budgeting law that would give Jerusalem a special grant, Hadashot TV news reported.

The campaign has persisted for several weeks under the slogan “Kahlon decide: Jerusalem or politics.” The municipality has also published video clips on social media accusing Kahlon of withholding funding and of ignoring pleas from Barkat to release the money.

Critics of Barkat say that in recent years he has allowed his own national political aspirations within Likud to come at the expense of the city.

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