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It no longer really matters whether they resign or return; they've already learned the lesson: ingratitude, not good citizenship.

Here's what turns the proceedings into a tragedy: Everyone sees where it's going - rapidly downhill - and that it will soon collapse, but nobody's really trying to stop it. That's a tragedy, because what's at stake here is human life. And it's an Israeli tragedy, because hundreds of young men and women have learned that nobody wants their talents, their investment, their idealism. Now, against their will, they are deserting their posts, and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman will recruit yeshiva students and heaven's mercy to fill their places.

Never before has anyone here so betrayed the responsibilities of his office as our health minister, who is also the supreme finance minister, and the prime minister too, as is well known. Even this week, he didn't manage to come to his senses. The court has ordered the sides to continue talking under the prime minister's aegis. With an aegis like that, it's better to be naked.

At the end of last week, in another demonstration of good taste, the prime minister's bureau issued a statement about Benjamin Netanyahu's "excellent health." The prime minister "showed fine physical fitness on the stress test," it said.

It's a pity he didn't work a little harder on the crisis test in order to resolve it in time. It's also a pity that the health of the country's leaders is so good when the health of all its citizens is in danger, because the health system itself is sick. If these VIPs shared the man in the street's need for the services of those who do shifts night and day, things would have developed differently.

Currently, the residents feel humiliated: They had a dream. At the last moment, just before the gate closed, Netanyahu agreed to see and hear them for the first time. But after six months, he first sought to "study the issue," and then wanted another two-week extension "until after the holidays." For this, we don't need a prime minister; a superfluous deputy minister or an obtuse treasury bureaucrat would suffice.

His personal physician - and sometime spokesman - expressed disappointment at the rejection of the request. After all, it's well known that Netanyahu is utterly trustworthy; his word is his bond.

We have already noted several times that that credibility is not merely a nice attribute for a leader, but an essential one. Without it, it's impossible to run a country, or even a corner grocery. The residents' response was therefore a vote of no-confidence loud and clear as an alarm bell, and not because they are of little faith. Even the house doctor complained about his patient.

A week ago, Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Daniel Shechtman described the sense of insult and humiliation that the academic community has felt for years. For the most part, this was the decade of Netanyahu and Limor Livnat, who ruthlessly cut funding for higher education. So the residents are not the first to be betrayed. Anyone who keeps faith with the state is betrayed by it. Those who also ask what it will do for them receive not an answer, but a slap in the face.

"Signed agreements can't be reopened," lest the pillars of the world be overturned. That's the main argument being offered to the residents. Just two days ago, the innards of the Trajtenberg report were opened in an emergency coalition operation. But Avigdor Lieberman can topple the government, so it pays to bribe him. The main thing is the government and its leader, not the public's health.

A wage agreement can't be reopened. So what's the status of the agreement between the citizens and their state - signed or unsigned? A state also has obligations to its citizens, not just they to it. But here, everything is topsy-turvy: The state is Moloch, and the citizen is fated to be its sacrifice.

This wage agreement must be opened, and its terms revised. If one summer of protest wasn't enough, we'll devote the winter to formulating and implementing its demands. If this state has no constitution, it should at least have a covenant.

This is a tragedy, because it's the very salt of the earth that is now being sowed on the state's open wounds: They are cutting themselves off from the work they love, and thereby giving up on their destiny, their mission, and perhaps even their country. Another glorious enterprise is being stripped of its assets, and in the hospital corridors a chill wind has been blowing since this morning. How melancholy medicine is without its next generation.

The government has betrayed them, and in the coming days we will learn whether their colleagues will also turn their backs - all those hospital directors and senior doctors in whose name and for whose sake the residents and younger specialists were also fighting. And they were fighting for us as well.

To ease the pain of the break, there is now no choice but to reinforce them. It is necessary to make it clear immediately that these young doctors will not be torn from their chosen lives by themselves, and that these first resignations won't be the last.