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(photo credit: Carl Hoffman)
The committee created last month by outgoing Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit to consider unifying Ramle and Lod decided unanimously on Monday to recommend merging the two cities.
The committee, formed on February 19 and headed by Arie Parjun, includes former MK Reshef Chen and Tel Aviv Treasurer Moshe Giltzer.
Sheetrit was compelled by "Lod's bad, bad management issues" to create the panel, and hopes that the absorption of Lod's governance into Ramle will be a boon for both cities, according to Elan Marciano, Sheetrit's press officer.
According to Aviv Wasserman, director of the Lod Community Foundation, the city is "infamous as one of the worst municipalities in Israel" and is fraught with "governmental corruption and general incompetence."
Wasserman cited the Lod Municipality's inability to spend the money allocated to it, and noted that the Interior Ministry had to disperse the Lod City Council twice in the past decade and appoint hand-picked officials to run the city.
This was not the only reason for Sheetrit's support of the merger, said Wasserman, who claimed that "politically, Sheetrit was motivated to support his close friend in Kadima, Yoel Lavi, the mayor of Ramle, in expanding his territory and influence."
Lavi, meanwhile, expressed hope that "with the approval of the ministry, Lod's obligations and debts will be alleviated, and its municipal services will begin operating with Ramle's assistance, which will benefit both Ramle and Lod.
"We must remember that the unification of the cities is based on the good and effective management of Ramle and the services it provides to its residents. As a Zionist and a member of Israeli society, if I am given this mission, I will perform it to the best of my abilities."
Marciano said Sheetrit was "very pleased with the committee's decision. It's a very good idea for the general good of both cities."
Wasserman echoed Marciano's sentiments in praising the proposed merger, calling it "a necessary measure for the future of Lod," but conceded that "I simply don't think it will happen."
Now that Shas chairman Eli Yishai is succeeding Sheetrit as interior minister, the political impetus is gone, explained Wasserman. According to Marciano, Yishai will be the ultimate decision-maker in the matter.
"It's a big matter," said Marciano, but Sheetrit will not confirm the recommendation due to the current change of administration.
"Sheetrit hopes that he [Yishai] will make a professional decision. It should a purely professional matter, not personal," Marciano said.
Regarding the likelihood of Yishai's support for the measure, Marciano told The Jerusalem Post that he had been told not to comment.