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Israel Courts Block Unions From General Strike

One In Five Israelis Now Living In Poverty
(IPS) -- The Israeli Labor Court issued an order November 3 aborting a general strike that had brought public life in Israel to a standstill.

The strike, which was called by Israel's General Federation of Labor, Histradut, began at 6AM, affecting all major services from water and electricity, to banks, postal services and air traffic, as a protest against the government's recent austerity budget, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The court ruled that the general strike should be limited to four hours, and called on the Histradut to comply, adding that the union and the Treasury will continue their negotiations.

At dawn, flights had been suspended at Ben Gurion International Airport, banks were not refilling cash points, and hospitals were offering minimal service and trains stopped running.

The Israel Electric Corporation and Bezeq Phone Company won't be fixing breakdowns.

Fuel tankers also stopped supplies to gas stations on the orders of the Histadrut, while long queues were building up at fuel stations in some areas as drivers sought to stock up on fuel.

Israeli Public radio reported prices had risen about three percent.

By noon, most stoppages had already come to an end after confusion reigned among Histadrut workers as to whether or not they should go on strike.

Histadrut confirmed later Monday that it complied with the court order, stressing that one of the goals of the strike was to preserve such courts, which the government wants to scrap.

Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Nov. 2 called on Histadrut to delay the general strike for 48 hours and enter into round-the-clock negotiations.

"Cancel this pointless strike or at least postpone it for 48 hours so we can enter into round-the-clock talks aimed at making the reform program possible and preventing unnecessary suffering for the people of Israel," Netanyahu said at a press conference shown on Israel private television.

Unions have been angered by the budget which would see the government take control of pension funds and convert the public works department into a state-owned company, leading to most of its 715 employees being laid off.

The unions have been pushing the government to at least freeze its proposals on pensions for six months, but the finance ministry has made clear that it has no intention of backing down.

The Israeli economy has been left reeling by the twin impact of the three-year-old Palestinian intifada and the global economic slowdown which has left about 11 percent of the population unemployed.

The results of a government survey published on Oct. 30 showed that one in three Israeli children are now living below the poverty line.

Even though the Israeli economy is in dire straits, the government of Ariel Sharon is allocating a total of $1.8 billion to building its controversial separating wall, which effectively leave vast swathes of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli side.

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Albion Monitor November 3, 2003 (

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