Israel Airport Authority (IAA) union chief and Likud stalwart Pinchas Idan confirmed in writing on Sunday that a general strike launched on March 27 by the Histadrut, Israel's national trade union center, had been coordinated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Idan's comments came in the form of a response to a number of appeals by Likud members to the party's internal tribunal calling for sanctions against him for acting against the Likud party's decision to support judicial reform legislation, after he ordered airport workers to shut down Ben-Gurion International Airport on the morning of March 27.
The IAA union is part of the Histadrut, and the strike was announced as part of Histadrut leader Arnon Bar-David's decision for the entire organization to strike.
Netanyahu's alleged involvement in the strike was intended to create enough public legitimacy for him to announce a freeze on judicial reform legislation.
The strike broke after massive unrest broke out on March 26 after Netanyahu announced that he had decided to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had called for a halt to the legal reform legislation a day earlier. The protests and strike led the prime minister to announce in the evening of March 27 that legislation of the judicial reform would freeze until after the Knesset's Passover recess.
According to the written affidavit, Bar-David explicitly told Idan that the strike was coordinated with the prime minister and would last for only two hours, after which the prime minister was expected to announce the freeze. Idan was thus acting on what he believed to be the prime minister's orders, he wrote.
In the affidavit, Idan called the accusations against him "absurd," since, according to its logic, Netanyahu himself should be sanctioned for announcing the legislation freeze, contrary to the party's decision. The same would apply to Gallant for speaking out against the reforms, Idan claimed.
Netanyahu's announcement of the legislation freeze ended up being delayed until the evening, after National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir threatened to quit the government. This was unexpected and took the entire day to work out. The strike at Ben-Gurion was called off after approximately two hours, but local authorities, preschools, the Israel Medical Association and most of Israel's universities, as well as hundreds of other public and private companies, joined the strike throughout the day.
Reports that Netanyahu had coordinated with Bar-David over the strike surfaced in the days following the strike. A senior member of the coalition even confirmed to the Jerusalem Post that the prime minister's inner circle had been involved. However, both the prime minister and the Histadrut leader denied this.
KAN published a recording later that week of a phone conversation with Idan, in which the IAA union chief admitted that the strike had been illegal. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich condemned the strike a number of times, including on Sunday when he said that "whoever is responsible for it will bear the economic consequences."
The Likud issued another denial on Sunday.
"Contrary to what Pinchas Idan said, we acted determinedly against the strike and demanded that the Histadrut head refrain from it and stop it immediately. Any other claim is incorrect," the party wrote.
The Histadrut also issued another denial:
"The Histadrut chairman's decision to launch a general strike was made out of deep worry for the future of the state of Israel, and with the unprecedented backing of the leaders of the business sector. Any claim about coordination of the strike with the prime minister's office is baseless and between it and the truth there is no connection to reality."