The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to pass the state budget by the end of this month, or the Knesset will be automatically dissolved. The trouble is that it doesn’t have the funds to meet some of its budgetary obligations according to coalition agreements.
In particular, there isn’t enough money left to invest in poorer, developing municipalities.
So the plan they came up with is something called an “Arnona Fund” – arnona being municipal property taxes.
Municipalities set and manage arnona in order to provide local services like garbage collection and landscaping, as well as upkeep and funding of local schools.
The government’s scheme would require wealthier municipalities to set aside a percentage of arnona for this new fund, which would then be distributed among poorer municipalities.
The idea of wealth redistribution is already unpopular among Israelis. But what’s really got people upset is that many of the municipalities that would benefit from the scheme are ultra-Orthodox towns and settlements, where income levels are so low because most male residents attend yeshiva rather than work.
In response to this, many Israeli municipalities announced a broad strike on Monday that, among other things, closed down local schools, much to the chagrin of parents.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich fired back by noting that the government has pumped a lot of money into building a light rail system for Tel Aviv, taxes that came from the rick and the poor alike. So, as Israel’s wealthiest large municipality, he sees no reason that Tel Aviv and other wealthier municipalities can’t now give something back.
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