Strike Fight Descends Into Personal Attack

The dispute between the secondary school teachers union and the finance minister took a bitter, personal turn yesterday. In a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, attorney Sigal Payil, representing the union, wrote that during the negotiations on October 31, the Finance Ministry's Wages Director, Eli Cohen told the union chairman, Ran Erez, that "we have compiled a psychological profile of you with the help of experts, so that we can identify your weak points."

Later in the meeting, Payil says, Cohen said that "the aim is to fight Erez on a personal level in order to achieve victory among the teachers," noting that there is no problem in digging into the union leader's past.

"Cohen told Erez that he should watch his health because it is dear to him. Cohen's tone was of a threatening nature and diverged from what is acceptable during negotiations," the union attorney wrote Mazuz.

Payil said that there is concern that premeditated efforts by Finance and Education ministry officials "were carried out in an effort to harm and delegitimize the leader of a union... and undermine the entire struggle."

Treasury officials responded on behalf of Cohen to the allegations, saying "this never happened."