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"The lecturers have taken 100,000 students hostage and are threatening a national disaster because of money they don't deserve," Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said yesterday.

Speaking to the Knesset during the presentation of an urgent agenda motion on the ongoing lecturers' strike, Bar-On also called the senior faculty's demands "wildly exaggerated." He added they "must not be met, even if they were contributing money to the state and not costing money."

Bar-On said the lecturers told him their demand for compensation for wage erosion had originally been between 10 and 20 percent, but after they began striking, they raised it to 30 to 35 percent. "I am not willing to respond to such temerity," Bar-On told the House.

Bar-On called the professors' labor action a "deluxe strike," since the average lecturer grossed NIS 22,000 per month and they continued earn half their salary for research.

MK Zevulon Orlev, chairman of the National Union-National Religious Party, said Bar-On was blocking Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from intervening in the crisis because he was angry he had not been invited to dinner with U.S. President George W. Bush.

"You should wear a tag identifying yourself as a lobbyist," Bar-On retorted.