Yaakov Litzman - Dror Artzi - Feb 13, 2011
Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. Photo by Dror Artzi
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The conductor orchestrating the negotiations between the physicians and the Finance Ministry is none other than the president of the National Labor Court, Judge Nili Arad, who in the past two weeks has spent dozens of hours attempting to mediate between the two sides.

Arad, says a source close to the negotiations, is a tough judge and a good crisis manager who knows which buttons to push to revive a faltering machine.

At the start of the day's proceedings she gathers the negotiators in a room behind the third-floor conference room and attempts to determine the remaining issues. She leaves the parties to work our their issues on their own, in small groups or together, receiving regular updates on the progress or lack thereof.

At the end of the day - usually late at night - she summons the representatives for a summing-up session. She instructs them to stay in the game and to leave the thorniest issues until later.

But the closed-door character of the proceedings, which affect a matter of great public interest, has earned Arad some detractors - particularly among the journalists who are attempting to make them public. She had initially even instructed the parties, and their lawyers, not to reveal details of the negotiations to reporters in order not to damage the bargaining process.

Last week journalists on the ground floor of the National Labor Court were surprised at the sight of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman in the corridor, on his way to Arad's office on the second floor.

He told the reporters he had been invited by Arad to a meeting on the labor dispute. He left a few hours later, and according to some sources met with her again that same day.

On Friday, at the height of the negotiations, Israel Radio reporter Carmit Reuven and Army Radio report Ilan Aharonov wanted to wait outside the third-floor room, which Arad occasionally entered using an inside stairway.

The reporters were informed by a security officer that the court is closed on Fridays, and were ordered by Arad to return to the ground floor to wait for a press briefing.

"We've been covering these negotiations for months now, on a daily basis. When we're pushed to the ground floor we can't report to the public on who is going into the conference room, who is coming to the judge's chambers, on the work process," Aharonov said yesterday. "At least when we're here on the third floor we can report on who goes where, to hear what's said in the hallway, to exchange remarks with the parties."

The Labor Courts spokeswoman said in a response that the proceedings were closed to the public at this stage.