Yerushalayim is to receive an additional NIS 50 million for its annual budget, bringing the total budget for 2016 to NIS 499 million. The city and the Finance Ministry came to an agreement on the extra funding Monday, after months of mutual backbiting and accusations – and after the city had made plans to fire thousands of workers because it said it could not afford to pay them.
For a number of reasons – some of them rumored to be based on the personal relationship between Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon – Yerushalayim, according to Barkat, had been “shortchanged” in its annual budget. With the city required to supply security personnel and services for visiting dignitaries, Barkat demanded an additional allocation from the Treasury, beyond the funding the city was determined to be eligible for.
The matter could have been resolved at a meeting between Barkat and Kachlon – but such meetings never materialized; both the city and the Ministry blamed the other for the failure to meet, and for the budget crisis. According to some sources, the reason for the animosity is that Barkat is seen by Kachlon as a potential challenger on the national political scene, likely to take voters from Kahlon’s Kulanu party should he decide to run. Beyond that, there is bad blood between Barkat and Kachlon over the resignation of the latter’s brother, Koby, as Yerushalayim deputy mayor last year. Moshe Kachlon is said to feel that Barkat did not stand up for Koby over a lawsuit and allegations of impropriety against him.
In any event, the matter has been resolved – and some 200 sanitation workers who were given notice, as well as hundreds of social workers who the city announced last week were next to go, will be able to remain on the job.
Barkat’s willingness to fire workers was a central feature of the agenda of a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee Monday, which discussed the crisis, and how to prevent another one. MK David Amsalem (Shas), chairman of the committee and an old political opponent of the mayor, slammed Barkat, saying that “the manner in which you are managing the city is unacceptable. You cannot close down the city because you have no money.” Referring to a protest that Barkat led in December, Amsalem said that Barkat “brought signs and protesters here. I want to know who gave you a permit to buy the material for those signs. You cry that you don’t have enough money but you fund protests?”
At the end of the discussion, the Committee agreed to approve the arrangement. Barkat said that the money would go to security and education, and to pay the salaries of contract workers who were needed, but were not covered by the regular budget.