Palestinian council leaders protest against Smotrich's funding freeze in Jerusalem
Thirty council heads from Palestinian communities in Israel staged a demonstration in front of the Israeli Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, protesting far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s decision to withhold the transfer of 300 million Israeli shekels (US$80 million) allocated to Palestinian municipalities.
The protesters called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene directly in the matter and transfer the money to the authorities immediately.
The withheld money includes tens of millions of shekels which were earmarked for addressing the lack of classrooms in Palestinian schools in Israel.
The protesting council leaders said that Palestinian schools in Israel will not open on the originally planned date of September 1 due to the funding freeze, with strike action being planned for August 16 across all Palestinian local authorities instead.
Mudar Younis, the head of the National Council of Arab Mayors in Israel, told The New Arab’s sister publication Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that “without the frozen funds, several projects are impacted, including educational and social welfare programmes”.
Amir Basharat, the CEO of the National Committee for the Heads of Arab Local Authorities, told Israeli media that Smotrich “is trying to weaken the Arab leadership and authorities” by freezing the funds, and that the council heads “have in mind a shutdown of the school system at the beginning of September.”
In addition to the strike, Basharat told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that there will be another protest in Jerusalem next Monday.