Palestinian councils in Israel protest suspension of funds

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has withheld allocations and payments worth 200 million Israeli shekels to Palestinian municipal councils. Residents of Palestinian-majority areas in Israel have been subject to decades of discrimination and marginalization

August 22, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Palestinian politician and member of the Knesset Ayman Odeh is manhandled by Israeli security personnel at the protest. Photo: WAFA

Palestinian Municipal Councils in Israel staged a strike on Monday, August 21, against a recent decision by far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to withhold financial allocations and payments worth 200 million Israeli shekels. Smotrich claimed while suspending the funds that the money would end up in the hands of “criminal and terrorist elements.”

Council leaders and employees also held demonstrations outside government offices in Jerusalem. Smotrich’s comments have been widely condemned, including by his fellow cabinet ministers.

Smotrich announced the withholding of roughly 200 million Israeli shekels (USD 52.75 million) meant for Palestinians municipalities despite the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising on August 9 that the funds will be released.

According to reports, residents of Palestinian-majority areas in the state of Israel have been subject to decades of discrimination and marginalization when it comes to financial and other resources needed to maintain and develop the civil and commercial infrastructure. This has led to a huge gap between the conditions and facilities available in these areas and those in the much more developed and well-funded Jewish-majority parts of Israel.

Palestinians, dismissing the minister’s racist and xenophobic claims, called them “false and ridiculous,” and insisted that the money is “survival money, not a luxury” and that this is a “struggle for our lives.” The secretary of the Arab Follow-up committee, which organized the protests on Monday, Mansour Dahamsha, told news outlets that the protests are a first warning step and they will be followed by other actions if the Israeli government does not reverse its decision and do away with its racist and fascist approach towards Palestinians living inside Israel, on top of the extremely violent and oppressive approach it has to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

Palestinian politicians and members of Knesset such as Ayman Odeh also took part in the demonstrations. Israeli security forces tried to suppress and break up the protests, and were seen pushing and physically assaulting many of the protesters.