Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz slammed the medical residents who resigned despite a Labor Court injunction, and said that the Treasury will not revise the young doctors' disputed employment contract.
"This isn't a health crisis, but a struggle for the State of Israel's identity," Steinitz said as he entered Sunday's government meeting. "This struggle will determine whether this is a state of law and order, where contracts are honored and court rulings are carried out – or an anarchic state, where everyone acts of their accord."
- Medical residents agree to resume wage talks
Medical residents resume struggle
Steinitz: Time to end residents' anarchy
The residents were expected to inform the High Court of Justice on Sunday morning that they intend to resume negotiations over their employment terms with the state, and return to work.
But Steinitz asserted that the contract the Treasury signed with the Israel Medical Association will not be amended.
"I call on the doctors to abide by the High Court and Labor Court rulings, and honor the contract that was legally signed," he said. "We are willing to listen and compromise, and see what can be improved upon, but first of all the law must be followed… A wage contract was signed, and cannot be broken."
The contract offered doctors across the board salary raises and other benefits which the medical residents and many specialists found inadequate.
'No one is above the law'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Steinitz's position during Sunday's meeting.
"I understand your desire to improve the terms of the contract, but no one in Israel is above the law. We all must abide by court rulings, otherwise we will have anarchy," he told the medical residents. "I urge to return to work immediately, and leave the patients out of the struggle."
The prime minister added: "Only three months ago an agreement was signed between the Medical Association and the Treasury. The current government cannot accept a situation in which recently-signed contracts are reopened."
He promised to stay involved in the talks between the doctors and the Finance Ministry, but added that "naturally, not all of the demands will be met. But we are willing to listen."
'Attacks on Treasury unacceptable'
The finance minister addressed the residents as well, warning them against "taking liberties that other, weaker sectors wouldn't take, just because you are doctors and the salt of the earth.
"Every sector wants more. The tactic is to attack the Treasury, and that's unacceptable," he added. "These are the most professional, moral people in the country."
Also during Sunday's government meeting, Steinitz criticized Defense Minister Ehud Barak for saying in an interview with PBS that if he were Iranian, he would have wanted to have nuclear weapons.
"I don’t intend to address the issue, the less we talk about it, the better," he said. "I'm not even going to specify what I would have done if I were Iranian – it's unnecessary."