The low simmer that is the dispute between the nurses union and the Finance Ministry looks like it will finally reach a boil on Tuesday with the nurses announcing a four-hour strike set for the morning.
Yedioth Ahronoth airs the nurses’ side of the story with a front-page headline, “The Finance Ministry lies.” At the heart of the dispute is money, with nurses saying their monthly salary is too low, around NIS 7,000 per month (about $1,825). The ministry responded to that claim by publishing pay slips of nurses who earn NIS 28,000 per month (about $7,315). The paper reports that the government is expected to ask the labor court to intervene and prevent the nurses from striking.
Maariv provides a easy-to-read list of what the two sides are demanding and what to expect during the short strike. The nurses are demanding a salary increase of 15-20% while the Finance Ministry is offering an increase of 425 shekels (about $110) over the next four years. The nurses also want their profession to be recognized by the ministry as a profession of national importance, while the ministry doesn’t feel that is necessary.
During their strike, nurses will only assist in emergency situations and administer essential medicines to patients and that’s about it. Scheduled operations that are non-life-threatening will be delayed, as will non-emergency patient care for the four hours.
Israel Hayom lets two of the participants in the negotiations duke it out with two small opinion pieces, one in favor of the strike and one against. Dr. Yaron Amsalem writes that the pressure of being a doctor or nurse in the Israeli health care system is “very challenging but very rewarding.” The struggle to make ends meet have often led to questioning whether to stay in the profession, especially with the alluring rewards of private practice or going abroad. In the end, he believes that fighting for the nurses is for everyone’s benefit. “Indeed, a day when we are forced to strike is a black day and a badge of shame for Israel’s health system, but it is time to fight for nurses and for all Israeli citizens, who deserve quality medical care.”
Arguing against the strike is the manager of the Finance Ministry’s budget, Gal Hershkovitz, who states that now is not the time to strike. Aside from it being election season and that a new wage agreement should be completed only when there is a new government, perhaps Hershkovitz’s most convincing argument against a strike is the simplest, “We are sitting and negotiating with the nurses’ union, so there is no need to strike.”
EU condemns, US demurs
Has the American government grown frustrated with Israel? According to a Haaretz front-page article, the answer is yes. The article, which is a report on a Peter Beinart article, according to which American officials told Beinart that based on Israel’s recent actions, there is a new American strategy: hands off. According to the article, the Americans won’t help to alleviate the recent pressure from Europe and believe change will only come once Netanyahu feels Israel’s isolation. However, the policy will only be political and there won’t be any change in the security cooperation between the two countries. Haaretz gives credibility to the article by pointing out that Beinart is considered close to the Obama administration and participated in policy meetings at the White House during the first administration.
Israel Hayom reports on that European pressure that Israel is feeling right now over its announcement of expanding settlement activity. The European Union condemned Israel’s settlement activity on Monday, but decided not to impose sanctions on Israel. The Foreign Ministry released a statement: “The EU is mistaken, settlements are not an obstacle to peace.” Netanyahu also responded to the EU condemnation by stating, “Israel will continue to tell the truth on our rights, in our land and to defend on our nation against the enemies who want to destroy us.”
Yedioth includes a small article in its coverage of the EU condemnation about an newspaper ad campaign that Israel’s Foreign Ministry is pursuing against Mahmoud Abbas. “Operation Pillar of Newspapers” is how Yedioth cleverly names the campaign, which will take out full-page ads in newspapers in 10 European countries. The campaign was the brainchild of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who was forced to turn to private funding by Jewish groups after Israeli embassies in some of the countries opposed the campaign, calling it unprofessional.
A clinic too far
Maariv reports that residents of the Kfar Saba’s Eliezer neighborhood are protesting against the installation of a fifth mental health clinic in their neighborhood. The neighborhood, which has a minuscule population of 150 people, already has four such clinics with live-in patients. Shlomo Miguri-Cohen, head of the Eliezer council, told the paper, “We are not against the patients in any way, but there cannot be in such a small area five mental health clinics that will transform the focus of the neighborhood.” Miguri-Cohen told the paper that some of the patients have very serious issues and some of the residents suffer from this, but “until this day we never stopped the establishment of the clinics, but it is already too many.”
In the opinion pages, Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit ties together Knesset members’ immunity and the soldiers who fled from Palestinian stone throwers in Nablus on Friday. As a committee discusses whether to disqualify MK Hanin Zoabi, Margalit writes that if Israeli Arabs really want their Knesset members to be close to terrorists then “there is no reason to act like an ostrich and stick our heads in the sand and not recognize the bleak reality by denying and ignoring it.” He urges to change the immunity laws in Israel to confront that reality and prosecute in the courts MKs who side with terrorists. Margalit also urges the IDF not to let public relations influence soldiers’ abilities (as the soldiers suspected) to complete their missions. When the IDF sends soldiers on a mission, it assumes that they can use the means at their disposal, “even if it doesn’t photograph well.”