Jerusalem, Israel - Feb. 20, 2024  - The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel’s Herbert M. Singer Conference was held on February 20th at the Shalva Center in Jerusalem, Israel.   Because of the October 7 war,  Israeli municipal elections originally scheduled for the end of October were postponed until February 27. Today's sessions were timely dealing with the issues of local authorities in Israel. 

The conference participants discussed questions surrounding the power struggles between central and local government, the division of responsibilities, budgeted money for various areas like education and welfare, and disparities among local authorities serving varied population groups in Israel.

Israel has 255 local authorities, including cities, local councils, and district councils. Their job is to provide their residents with municipal services as established by law. The majority of local authority budgets are from independent sources, primarily property taxes, a portion from government offices, like the ministries of welfare, education, and the interior by certain criteria, and a portion from foundations and contributions. 

The government system in Israel is highly centralized relative to other OECD countries. Decentralization of authority to the local level is part of a worldwide trend for strengthening the autonomy of municipalities. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many authorities ran local systems offering aid and support in addition to the national level systems, and the balance of responsibilities between central and local authorities rose to the top of the public agenda. 

With the war and hundreds of thousands of citizens affected, the matter has become even more urgent. It will take years to finish rebuilding some of the communities hardest hit on October 7.

Prof. Avi Weiss, President, of Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, gave closing remarks after a full morning with panels representing in Hebrew the varied interests and government opinions.