Cabinet meeting 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On Sunday, as the state prosecutors’ strike entered its 40th day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intervened for the first time, instructing his office’s director-general, Eyal Gabai, to meet with representatives of the Finance Ministry and the lawyers to advise them on ways to resolve the work stoppage.
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In the meantime, the prosecutors decided on additional measures to intensify the strike.
Both sides anticipate developments after the High Court of Justice hears a petition filed on Sunday calling on the justices to issue a temporary order forcing the Finance Ministry to negotiate with the lawyers while the strike is ongoing.
“I decided to intervene after all prior efforts failed,” said Netanyahu in a statement prior to the weekly cabinet session.
Netanyahu spoke to Gabai following a meeting in his office with the finance and justice ministers, the attorney-general and other ministerial representatives. According to the prime minister’s instructions, Gabai will not mediate or arbitrate between the sides, only advise them on an agreed-upon process, through which a solution to the strike will be found.
Gabai met with the Finance Ministry’s director of wages, Elan Levin, immediately following the meeting and is scheduled to get together with the prosecutors in the next few days.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors committee met on Sunday morning and debated measures to toughen the strike. Suggestions included preventing prosecutors from attending custody-extension hearings in severe criminal cases (including those dealing with drugs and robbery), reducing the number of exemptions allowing lawyers to represent the state in court and threats to limit the work of the prosecution’s international department, which protects Israelis prosecuted abroad.
On Monday, the High Court is scheduled to hear a petition filed by attorney David Fohrer, a former state prosecutor, now working in the private sector. The request calls on the court to order the government to negotiate openly with the prosecutors, something it has been loath to do, with the Finance Ministry demanding that the lawyers cease their strike before agreeing to enter negotiations.
In the petition, Fohrer wrote that the government’s demands that the prosecutors return to work before entering negotiations is “harmful, capricious and exceeds the norms and reasonable behavior expected from the authorities.”
“The respondent’s position is so extremely unreasonable that it justifies the Supreme Court ordering the two sides to negotiate with each other,” he said.
Fohrer bases his assertions on the degree of harm suffered by himself, his clients and the public due to the strike, which has seen hundreds of cases go unheard and dozens of charged suspects go free in recent weeks.
“I don’t know which of the sides is right in this matter, but in any case, it is unreasonable for the negotiations to be on hold for so long just because of the Finance Ministry’s obstinacy,” Fohrer said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
. “I think both sides will be eagerly waiting to see where the court leans on this petition in order to plan their next steps.”
In his petition, Fohrer hinted at possible “external considerations” influencing the ministers’ refusal to negotiate, referring to the prosecution’s failure to file an appeal in former MK Tzachi Hanegbi’s political appointments case.
“The plaintiff has no concrete information regarding external considerations, but the mere suspicion of such considerations may undermine the public’s faith in its leaders,” read the petition.
On Thursday, State Attorney Moshe Lador spoke out on behalf of the prosecutors and called on Netanyahu to intervene.
In an interview with Channel 10, Lador accused Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of trying to strong-arm the prosecutors, and said that if the strike had stopped ships from entering ports or electricity from reaching people’s houses, it would have long been over.
The prosecutors are demanding a series of workplace improvements, as well as a 24-percent salary hike. The Finance Ministry has agreed to a 6.25% increase, but has failed to budge since the prosecutors stopped working. The difference between the two sides is estimated to total roughly NIS 20 million per year.