A view of the Old City of Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Amid claims by Mayor Nir Barkat that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is “deliberately starving” the capital by refusing to allocate NIS 450 million to balance Jerusalem’s budget, Kahlon recently asserted that he will give the struggling city “everything it deserves.”
However, on Wednesday MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid), chairwoman of the State Control Committee, blasted the Finance Ministry as “irresponsible” when its representatives reportedly boycotted a Knesset hearing to discuss the impasse with senior municipal representatives.
“It’s a scandal that the Finance Ministry allows itself to not attend the hearing,” she said in a statement following the 9 a.m. meeting, attended by the municipality’s treasurer and city manager.
The hearing – held 72 hours after the ministry authorized a NIS 17m. emergency loan to the municipality to rehire 170 terminated sanitation workers after the city was littered with trash – came one day after Kahlon contended it is Barkat who is exacerbating the capital’s fiscal crisis.
“When there’s a dispute, you come to the minister and make a decision, but they’re not prepared to sit with our professional teams,” Israeli media reported Kahlon saying of the mayor during a Tuesday press conference.
“Let no one think that I have something against Jerusalem. I love Jerusalem, it’s our capital... [and I am prepared to give it] everything it deserves.”
Still, Kahlon cryptically added: “I know what I want from [Barkat]; I don’t know what he wants from me.”
Meanwhile, Barkat has claimed that Kahlon has abdicated his responsibility to the city over a political vendetta, and has repeatedly refused to meet with him directly.
With respect to Barkat’s threat to fire over 2,000 municipal workers over the next several months if his budgetary demands are not met, Kahlon said, “I’m not going to try to educate Nir Barkat [on leadership]. Apparently that’s the education he received.”
In response, Barkat issued a sharply worded statement claiming that Kahlon continues to forsake the capital during its time of need by not meeting with him directly to discuss the foundering municipal budget.
“Unfortunately, the many challenges facing Jerusalem are not a priority for Kahlon,” Barkat said. “Worse still, the minister is deliberately ‘starving’ Jerusalem’s budget and is making Jerusalem go 10 steps backward. At a time when the capital of Israel faces existential challenges, it is [facing] an equally difficult and unnecessary economic attack.”
Barkat added that he is “ready to meet at any place and any time” with Kahlon to put an end to the protracted dispute.
In the meantime, he warned that the budget deficit will directly lead to “immediate painful and extensive cuts” at the public’s expense, which “residents of the city feel will feel firsthand.”