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MK says labor federation’s political general strike was illegal

The Histadrut violated the rights of its 800,000 members, Simcha Rothman said.

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman Simcha Rothman, March 19, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman Simcha Rothman, March 19, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

An Israeli lawmaker on Tuesday threatened action over the previous day’s general strike called by the Histadrut labor federation, arguing that it violated the law because it was instituted for political reasons.

“Those who use their organizational power as a labor organization to impose a political position should not be surprised if they are treated in the same manner,” MK Simcha Rothman, who chairs the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, told Army Radio.

The Religious Zionism Party member is a leading figure in the coalition’s judicial reform initiative that was postponed until after Passover at the directive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rothman said the strike was illegal because it took sides on a political issue and violated the rights of the approximately 800,000 members of the labor federation.

The Histadrut’s announcement led to a slew of work stoppages, including at Ben-Gurion Airport, where flights were grounded.

Travelers at Ben-Gurion Airport check whether their flights were canceled as workers went on strike to protest against the judicial reform program, March 27, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Hospitals operated on a Saturday schedule, McDonald’s shuttered its more than 200 restaurants across the country and universities, shopping malls, gyms, banks and other institutions announced they were closing in scenes reminiscent of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns that shut down Israel’s economy.

The Israeli embassy in Washington closed temporarily in response to the general strike announcement by Histadrut, also known as the General Organization of Workers in Israel. The diplomats at the embassy are all part of the labor federation. The Israeli consulate in New York also closed for the day.

The announcements came hours after Asaf Zamir, the consul general in New York, resigned on Sunday and Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, was fired on Sunday night by Netanyahu.

That firing set off mass demonstrations on Sunday night and into Monday, with Netanyahu on Monday night calling for a delay in the legislative work on the judicial reform bills. After Netanyahu’s announcement, Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David called off the continuation of the strike planned for Tuesday.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid reportedly held a secret meeting with Bar-David at his Tel Aviv home on Sunday to discuss a nationwide labor strike as a tactic to pressure the government into conceding on judicial reform. Lapid, head of the second-largest party in the Knesset, Yesh Atid, was attempting to persuade Bar-David to announce the general strike.

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