Likud members call to oust airport union chief from party after labor strike

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About 2,000 Likud members have signed a petition calling for the head of the airport workers union to be expelled from the party for delaying a flight departure as part of a general strike against the government’s judicial reform, a Likud minister said on Wednesday.

After the Histadrut labor confederation announced the strike on Monday, Pinchas Idan announced an immediate halt to flights out of Ben Gurion Airport, causing several delays.

The strike was called off later that day when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the judicial legislation to allow talks aimed at reaching a consensus on any changes. The negotiations between the government and the opposition began on Tuesday under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog.

The labor action sparked a backlash in Likud against Idan, a member of the party’s powerful Central Committee. According to Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli, who accused Idan of declaring an illegal strike and effectively trying to stop the judicial change, 2,000 Likud members along with 1,000 others have joined the petition.

“The time has come to replace and restore socialist business people whose skills have been bullied [Likud] on its original path,” Chikli said in a statement urging support for the petition.

Earlier on Wednesday, Idan pushed back against the criticism, saying he had agreed with the Histadrut that the strike at the airport would last for an hour.

“But then everything went haywire,” he told the Ynet news site, in part because Netanyahu delayed a planned speech.

Passengers look at a monitor showing delayed flights at Ben Gurion airport, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

Regarding claims that the strike was illegal, Idan invited any inconvenienced passengers to sue him, adding that he had no regrets.

“If it was really about [the strike] that the Prime Minister delayed the reform and convened everyone for talks, we prevented a civil war there,” he said.

“I’m committed to one thing – my workers,” Idan said. “I will continue in Likud. There are senior party members who have called to support me.”

Also on Wednesday, the head of the main doctors’ association sent a letter to Netanyahu urging him to publicly condemn the statements of a Likud minister who called for the termination of medical professionals who participated in the strike.

“I ask you to clearly and publicly condemn the words of the minister of public diplomacy and strongly demand that members of your party and members of the coalition government refrain from offensive and provocative statements in the future,” wrote Dr. Zion Hagai.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan called for the “cancellation of medical licenses” for all doctors who participated in the strike.

Minister of Public Diplomacy Galit Distel Atbaryan at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Vicious people like this should not be allowed access to the sick,” she wrote.

In his letter, Hagai drew a link between Distel Atbaryan’s statements and the community’s mistreatment of medical workers, noting several recent attacks.

“Unfortunately, the incitement increased yesterday… and took on the character of a deliberate government,” Hagai said, promising Israeli doctors “it will not be disturbed.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid also criticized Distel Atbaryan on Wednesday.

“A minister in the government who calls for political reasons to cancel the licenses of doctors who are saving lives every day is a poisonous and dangerous madness,” said Lapid.

A protest outside the Knesset against the government’s proposed judicial reform, in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Monday’s strike came a day after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after Gallant spoke out against judicial reform.

The move sparked massive protests across the country, capping more than two months of escalating demonstrations against the legislation, and also prompted strikes by labor groups, universities, local municipalities and school students .

Netanyahu put the legislation on hold the next day to allow for negotiations with the opposition aimed at reaching a consensus on the judicial legislation.

Tensions surrounding the shakeup have eased significantly since the legislative standoff was announced on Monday, but the issue remains a ticking time bomb as protest leaders believe the government plans to go through with its radical plan to remove the judiciary. shortening

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