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The union at Israel Railways crossed the line this week. It has the right to oppose management's plan to use a qualified outside firm to do maintenance work on the company's new train cars. But the fight must be rational and restrained; it cannot involve disrupting such an essential service (especially for outlying areas ) as train transportation.

More importantly, it is intolerable that the union has repeatedly failed to comply with Labor Court rulings and has acted arrogantly, thinking it can turn the train service off and on at will.

At 9 A.M. on Tuesday, after train service had been shut down all over the country, the Labor Court ordered railway employees to resume service immediately, but union chief Gila Edri and her colleagues thought otherwise. They warned the employees not to dare return to work, and even blocked the entrance to a railway garage in Lod.

The court scheduled another hearing at 11 A.M. that day, but Edri and her colleagues showed up two and a half hours late. "We announced the strike and we went up north," she said, without blinking. "I don't have wings, and it takes time to get here from there." It's hard to believe your ears. Then the court session itself was transformed into an embarrassing display of shouting, until Edri and her associates were expelled from the courtroom. As all this unfolded, the trains remained idle - at noon, during the afternoon and even into the evening - despite the court order.

Such disrespect for the court is unacceptable. We cannot allow a wildcat strike that reflects disrespect for a court that is evaluating the situation with professionalism and objectivity. This blatant disregard for the rule of law harms the public as a whole.

At the end of that day of contempt, the court fined the three union heads NIS 10,000 each, a piddling sum. Edri should draw conclusions from her improper conduct and resign from the union.

As these events took place, the silence of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini should also be noted. It was as if the matter had nothing to do with their areas of responsibility. They remained silent out of their own narrow political calculations, and their silence will be held against them.