Netanyahu: Israel's Medical Residents Should Leave Patients Out of Struggle

PM's comments come as resident representatives tell High Court they agree to return to talks with State, reiterating their demand that negotiations be held regarding the duration of an agreement signed 3 months ago.

Israel's protesting medical residents must return to work and leave the patients out of their struggle, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz adding that compliance with the residents' demands would lead to anarchy.

Netanyahu's comments came as medical residents accepted the High Court’s proposal to hold negotiations with a mediator, who will work to settle the crisis under the aegis of the High Court.

Benjamin Netanyahu - Emil Salman
Emil Salman

The residents also reiterated their demand that negotiations be held regarding the duration of the agreement signed three months ago between the state and the Israeli Medical Association (IMA), currently in force until July 2019.

Commenting on the residents' demands during Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, the prime minister said that a "responsible government cannot condone a situation in which agreements which have just not been signed are reconsidered," urging the residents to "return to work immediately and leave the patients out of the struggle."

"I understand the desire to improve your working conditions, but no one in Israel is above the law. We must all respect decisions, otherwise there will be anarchy," the premier said, adding that not all of the residents' demands will be met, but that the government "will be attuned to improving conditions within the framework of the signed agreement."

Also on Sunday, the finance minister attacked the Health Ministry's director general Roni Gamzu, over recently published comments he made during a meeting with medical residents, in which he criticized the government's handling of the health-system crisis.

On Thursday, Channel 2 released a tape in which Gamzu was heard speaking a few weeks ago to residents at Ichilov Hospital. Gamzu said Netanyahu had called for doctors to be brought to Israel from India to replace residents who have resigned.

Gamzu also said of the treasury: "You don't understand the level of the manipulations, the mafia-like level, the level of aggression against everyone working with them ... Just note that they have already asked that I be fired and have asked it a number of times over the past year ... without Litzman I would be somewhere else."

In response to Gamzu's comments, Steinitz criticized the Health Ministry's director general, saying that it was unacceptable that a state official discuss the matter with resident representatives without the government's knowledge.

"Those things should not have been said," Steinitz said, including the wild attack on the prime minister."

In addition, the finance minister rejected the interns' demand to shorten the agreement signed between the IMA and the state, adding that "the doctors will receive a 49% pay increase on average because they agreed to a long-term agreement."

"We mustn't forget that the deal with the IMA was reached only three months ago. We spat blood for that agreement, a momentous effort of six months until we reached it, aided by the Supreme Court," Steinitz said.

Echoing the premier's comments, the finance minister said that if agreements which were just signed, and reached as a result of High Court interference, would not be respected," if one could take that apart, then "we will arrive at anarchy."