Daily Israel Report

Livnat Under the Gun: "Nix Teachers' Firings - or You're Next"

Faced with a Teachers Union ultimatum, Education Minister Limor Livnat has agreed to a compromise retracting the dismissal letters to most of the 4,500 teachers who were fired earlier this month.
First Publish: 5/24/2005, 8:43 AM / Last Update: 5/24/2005, 11:34 AM

Livnat has long insisted that the firings were necessary because of recent budget cuts in her ministry. However, she was accused yesterday of acting in bad faith by not revealing the fact of a secret allocation of 400 million shekels to the Education Ministry - including 170 million shekels specifically to prevent the firings.

Minister Livnat acknowledged that she had not revealed the secret allocation because she was in the midst of negotiations with the teachers, and "all the cards need not be revealed at this early stage."

Following the revelation, which was publicized by the Haaretz daily, the teachers demanded that Livnat agree to have her parliamentary immunity removed so that they could take her to court, and possibly have her fired.

Later in the day, a compromise was suddenly reached according to which 2,000 of the laid-off teachers would agree to leave their jobs, while the other 2,500 would continue working as usual. The teachers, for their part, have agreed to five Dovrat Commission reforms, effective as early as next year. The threat to take Livnat to court has been temporarily suspended.

A bitter controversy over the firing of the 4,500 teachers has been raging for several weeks, involving personal accusations against Livnat, demands that the teachers accept the Dovrat Commission reforms, a verbal attack by MK Yossi Sarid leading Ministry Director-General Ronit Tirosh to leave the room in tears, and tear-jerking stories of teachers being laid off after decades in the system.

Teachers' representatives strongly attacked both Livnat and Tirosh yesterday. Teachers Union head Yossi Vasserman said, "What happened here has no precedent. That which we have claimed for many days - that there is no justification to fire the teachers because there are no budgetary problems - has been proven true. The Education Minister admitted that the budget exists, and yet she still fires the teachers."

Livnat has made enemies within the Likud as well. Though she originally entered national politics over a decade ago with a clear pro-Land of Israel philosophy, and with a strong Likud family history, she is now a tacit supporter of the disengagement plan and a Palestinian state. She recently came out strongly against Moshe Feiglin's Jewish Leadership faction, calling them a "group from outside that has come to take over the Likud."

An open letter to Livnat by Likud Central Committee Member Amit HaLevy reads, in part, as follows:

"...It would appear that Feiglin and his friends... are actually worthy of the title 'Likud member' much more that you and your friends, who have chosen among your other activities not to resist the plan to establish a Palestinian state in the Land of Israel, known as the Road Map...

"You have truly surprised us, Limor Livnat. From far, you seemed to be idealistic, loyal, of a fighting [Likud] family. But the more we get to know you and hear of you, we understand that the vessel is empty of content, and that [without] values and principles for serious debate, you are totally focused on baseless personal attacks.

"You are greatly mistaken. The Likud is a glorious party, and the Likud members are people of honor who can distinguish between real Likudniks who are loyal to the party's honored way and the nationalist camp... and a sullied group that has forgotten its way, betrayed its principles, and is concerned only with the pleasures of power."