Doctors in Israel held a two-hour strike on Wednesday, July 19, 2023 to register their objection to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary.
The doctors’ strike was the first by a workers’ organization since Netanyahu announced last month that he would proceed with the overhaul plan.
The plan, according to the doctors, will put the public’s health in peril by giving Netanyahu and his allies more power over the nation’s healthcare system.
Doctors, dressed in scrubs, gathered outside Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital while carrying banners that read, “We are the wall shielding democracy.”
Medical leaders warned that if Netanyahu’s government; the most right-wing in Israel’s 75-year history, moves on with a bill to restrict the judiciary’s oversight powers, which might be passed as soon as next week, they will take more drastic measures.
Nonetheless, emergency rooms were still open on Wednesday and oncology and fertility treatments remained available, Dr. Hagai Levine, Chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, announced.
In a letter to Netanyahu on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, Dr. Zion Hagay, Chairman of Israel’s Medical Association, noted that the bill would lessen the judiciary’s ability to strike down inappropriate appointments to the healthcare system.
“As someone who once served as health minister, you are undoubtedly aware of the extensive professional powers held by the politicians within the health care system,” he wrote in the letter.
“These powers include the appointment of district psychiatrists, district doctors, and various other positions, as well as the authority to make significant decisions regarding infectious diseases, epidemics, clinic and hospital closures, service privatization, and more.”Dr. Zion Hagay
The Prime Minister’s plan to overhaul the judiciary has triggered months of mass protests, including one on Tuesday, and warnings from key sectors of society, including business leaders and military reservists, that it will damage the country.
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of protesters blocked highways and train stations, thronged outside the U.S. diplomatic offices and packed the central square of Tel Aviv in countrywide demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contentious judicial overhaul plan.
Some protesters also gathered outside Israel’s stock exchange and military headquarters. Business leaders have repeatedly warned that a weakened legal system will deter foreign investors.
Reservists in key military units, including fighter pilots and cyber warfare agents, have threatened to stop reporting for duty.
A group of 161 reservists signed a letter to the Commander of the Israeli air force stating that they would not report for duty, and that the overhaul was “leading to dictatorship.”
Despite this, Israel’s military Chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, warned that a refusal to report for duty “harms the army and the security of the state of Israel.”
Israel Medical Association To Decide On Further Measures
Dr. Hagai Levine, Chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, also disclosed that Israel’s Medical Association will meet tomorrow, Thursday, July 20, 2023 to decide on further measures.
“If the government continues with the legislation, then the Israel Medical Association will take more severe steps, meaning a more severe strike,” he said.
The overhaul consists of a series of measures that Netanyahu and his allies say are needed to rein in the powers of an unelected judiciary that they believe is overly interventionist in government decisions.
However, protesters, which represent a wide cross section of Israeli society, claim that the plan is a power grab by Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies that will destroy the country’s fragile system of checks and balances.
Weekly mass protests against the plan; including a strike by the country’s national labor union, led Netanyahu to suspend the overhaul in March, but he revived the plan last month after compromise talks with the political opposition collapsed.