Mayors outline list of threats against municipal officials

The Knesset's Committee on the Interior and the Environment met Monday to discuss the growing number of assaults on local municipality officials. According to figures provided by the Internal Security Ministry, there has been a steady rise in the number of assaults on these officials. In 2006, there were eight incidents of grenades being tossed at local authorities, and three cases of gunfire directed at them. MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said he had submitted a bill that would provide a budget for local authorities to hire security personnel on an as-needed basis. According to Hasson, local police would only intervene on behalf of local officials after an attack has been perpetrated. "If we wait for an attack to happen, it's too late," said Hasson. "These people often face threats for months, and those threats endanger their ability to work." At the hearing, Jewish and Arab municipality leaders alike agreed that the non-stop threats were seriously hampering their abilities to serve their constituents. They complained that criminal elements were succeeding in having their agendas realized, as local municipality officials were legitimately concerned for their own personal safety. "I need to think twice before I make a decision," said one mayor who narrowly escaped serious injury when criminals threw a grenade into his home's courtyard. "I need to think twice because I know as a result something will happen. There will eventually be a murder, and probably even then it won't mean a thing. What needs to be done so that there will finally be action?" he asked. Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikar said she was shocked by the frequency and menacing nature of threats made by criminal elements against herself and other city administrators since she began her tenure. "The threats that I have experienced have led me to seriously reconsider if it is worth risking my life or my family to serve in public office," she said. She added she had personally been subject to blatant threats to her safety, her vehicles, and even dead animals has been left in her yard. She went on to describe her own alarming experiences, ranging from run-ins with construction contractors who attempt to intimidate city officials to authorize building projects in violation of city code, to a crime family's resorting to violence once she stepped in to stop them from stealing sand from Netanya's 14 km. of beaches. Ezra Binyamini, longtime mayor of Hod Hasharon, said the lack of government funds allocated to protect municipality officials, be it by police or private security companies, had left city officials vulnerable. Binyamini, who has shrapnel lodged in his shoulder from a grenade attack against him, said he decided to dismiss his own personal security detail when it became a drain on his municipality's budget, already stretched thin.