August 4, 2010 - 12:00am

Arab authority heads protested Wednesday in front of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, against what they claim are discriminatory budget cuts.

Union of Local Authorities chairman Shlomo Buhbut warned that if the government did not transfer more funds to the Arab authorities, he would start a general strike of all local authorities, including the Jewish ones, as well as the schools.

"The government doesn't understand that we are its delegates in running the State of Israel," Buhbut told Ynet. "We will therefore return some of the services performed by the local authorities to the state."

Nazareth Mayor Ramaz Jarisi, who also heads the local Arab councils, made similar threats. "If our demands are not met we will call for strikes throughout Israel, and I do not rule out blocking junctions in the future," he said.

The Arab authority heads claim that the government neglected to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars of their budget, despite the fact that they had met all of the standards set by the state.

Organizers of the protest said it was attended by hundreds of municipality employees, Arab MKs, and authority heads. They also claimed that two buses full of protestors were stopped by police from attending.

The chairman of the Knesset Lobby for Local Government, MK Zeev Bielski, had a warning of his own for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"If you want to procure love from all citizens of Israel you have to give Arab children what every child in Raanana gets," he said. "In the end, there are more than a million citizens not receiving the same services Jewish people do."

Many of the local authorities employ workers who have not received a paycheck in six months. Others complain of monthly delays in payment. "We will soon begin the Ramadan and the workers will not have enough food to eat," says Jarisi.

The Finance Ministry rejected the claims. "There is no money that was promised and then withheld," it said in a statement backed by the Interior Ministry.


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