Knesset members sharply criticized the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality during an Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting on Monday, after lifeguard strikes shut down many of the city’s beaches over the weekend.

Although the city was instructed to open 11 out of 13 beaches over the weekend, on Friday and Sunday only three beaches were open and Saturday only two, said Mordechai Cohen, director of local authorities for the Interior Ministry.

The number of lifeguards working in Tel Aviv-Jaffa – 48 – allows for the operation of 11 beaches, Dr. Shuki Amrani, the Interior Ministry’s director-general, confirmed.

In response to the situation, Tel Aviv Deputy Director-General Ruby Zaluf said that the municipality is trying to recruit lifeguards but is not willing to act against labor agreements with the rescuers.

MK Dov Henin (Hadash), a resident of Tel Aviv, said that it is impossible for the current situation to continue as is.

“Everyone agrees that the residents of Tel Aviv want to enjoy the beautiful beaches and it is a shame that they are closed,” Henin said.

Although Tel Aviv has the budget to invest in its beaches, the municipality signed problematic two-tier pay plans with the lifeguards in the past that no longer satisfy the rescuers, Henin said.

He stressed the urgency of negotiating with the guards and reopening the rescue stations as soon as possible.

“The bottom line is, improving the working conditions of the rescuers is pocket change,” Henin said. “It is the right thing socially and will also contribute to the professionalism of the lifeguards.”

MK Miri Regev (Likud) went so far as to call for the cancellation of Tel Aviv’s status as an independent city. “The Tel Aviv mayor is acting illegally,” she said.

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