-- February 12, 2012- National Strike Ends, Syria, Gaza Goes Dark

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Israel Update
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

February 12, 2012- National Strike Ends, Syria, Gaza Goes Dark

Israel's recent five-day general strike ended this morning. It was a strange strike. Although it was supposedly general, the strike had limited effect. Schools were open. The buses ran. However, the trains did not run. Ben Gurion Airport was closed, though only for six hours. Therefore, most airlines were able to plan around the strike. The only thing that remained closed were all of the government's ministries. As a result, the garbage piled up.

The strike was held over a long running dispute about the hiring practices for many government jobs, especially lower level ones, (such as cleaning and protection) to outside contractors. These outside contractors charge less, as they pay their workers less and do not give them any benefits. The National Labor Union, the Histradrut, demanded that the workers be hired directly by the government. In the end, the government refused to do that, but agreed to equalize the pay of the outside workers with the salaries that government workers receive. The government further agreed to raise the minimum wage paid to such workers from 4,000 shekel to 4,500 shekel per month. ($1066-$1200 a month). There were some other concessions made by the government, given in the area of professional workers that were contract workers as well. In the end, the government concessions add up to some well deserved, albeit small gains for the poorest of workers. However, these gains are certainly not something that justified a national strike.

The situation in Syria continues to be tragic. President Assad has clearly turned his tanks and artillery on his own people. The lesson for Israelis is always the same, if he is willing to do that to his own people, what would he be willing to do to us if he had the ability? Most Israeli observers believe it would be good for Israel if Assad were to fall, and thus break the Syrian Alliance with Iran. On the other hand, there is fear of chaos in Syria, and of chemical weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah or other terrorists. The changes in the Arab world have the potential for building a better future, but the chaos of today creates a level of uncertainty for which it is almost impossible to plan for or anticipate.

Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip is dark tonight. This is not the result of any action that Israel has taken. Rather, darkness is the product of the decision of those in the Strip who chose to import their oil and gas from the more reliable Egypt. The chaos in Egypt, however, has caused a complete breakdown in supplies. The cars are quiet and the one power plant that has been working at minimal capacity will go completely quiet tomorrow morning, as the last of its fuel will be exhausted.

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