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Israeli labor court orders doctors to end strike

Health Minister Moshe Arbel had filed an injunction to stop the Israeli Medical Association strike, claiming that it could harm patients.

Doctors attend an emergency conference organized by the Histadrut, on the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul, at the ICC in Jerusalem. July 23, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90
Doctors attend an emergency conference organized by the Histadrut, on the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul, at the ICC in Jerusalem. July 23, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

An Israeli labor court on Tuesday afternoon ordered the Israeli Medical Association to end its day-long strike over the judicial reform law passed the previous day.

Israeli Health Minister Moshe Arbel had filed an injunction against the 24-hour strike, that began on Tuesday morning, claiming that it could harm patients and did not meet the criteria for protest strikes. The Bat Yam Labor Court received the appeal on Tuesday morning.

“We believe a protest strike of two hours is sufficient to execute the right to protest, but not beyond that. In practice, the strike has been going on for over seven hours. We are ordering an immediate return to work for all healthcare services that were on strike today to reduce the harm to patients as much as possible,” the court wrote.

Arbel and Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov held a meeting on Monday night with Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky and representatives from the State Attorney General’s Office regarding the strike.

The IMA, which represents 97% of the country’s doctors, announced the strike after the Knesset voted into law an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary that limits the Supreme Court’s use of the so-called reasonableness standard.

Members of the union across the country participated, with only emergency and critical cases being treated. Hospitals operated in “Shabbat” mode on Tuesday, with emergency rooms operating as usual. Jerusalem hospitals and community clinics were exempted from the strike.

“A 24-hour protest strike, in the health system as a whole, and at the timing of this case—when the strike broke out less than 24 hours from the date of its announcement, does not comply with the proportionality rules of protest strikes,” the injunction states.

The Israel Medical Association held a two-hour “warning strike” last week. 

Thousands of protesters massed in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Monday night following the Monday afternoon Knesset vote on the “reasonableness” bill. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the third and final vote.

Protest leaders have vowed to continue the mass demonstrations that have roiled Israeli society since the new government took power at the end of last year.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a televised statement following the vote to reassure Israelis that democracy was in no way threatened by the judicial reform legislation.

“Today, we performed a necessary democratic step,” he said, adding, “realizing the will of the voters is not the end of democracy… it is the essence of democracy.”

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