Israeli Diplomats on Strike, Suspend Diplomatic and Consular Operations Worldwide

— Domani Spero

Britain’s David Cameron is visiting Israel and is expected to address the Knesset on Wednesday, March 12.  The host country’s Foreign Service, has been on strike since March 3rd, and Israel’s Foreign Service Workers’ Association has reportedly stated that staff would not co-operate or assist with preparations for Mr. Cameron’s visit.

The British embassy in Tel Aviv said: “We have an enormous respect for the work of our colleagues at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we are grateful to them for their close collaboration with us. “The visit of Prime Minister Cameron will be a proud moment for both countries, and we regret the MFA were unable to participate in its organisation on this occasion.”

Israel’s Foreign Service Workers’ Association released the following statement about the strike:

As of Tuesday, 3rd March 2014, Israel’s diplomats will no longer engage with foreign representatives, take care of official visits of any kind, either in Israel or overseas, issue visas or provide any consular services. This is just part of an extended list of organizational measures which will take effect immediately.

Israel’s diplomatic corps was left with no other choice but to ratchet up its year-long labor dispute with the Ministry of Finance, after the latter caused the failure of a seven-month mediation process led by the former Chief Justice of the Labor Court.

The diplomats were willing to give a real chance to the mediation process and find pragmatic solutions to all outstanding issues; however, the finance bureaucrats lacked sincerity and did not reciprocate with the same approach.

The bold measures mentioned above will hopefully raise awareness, both domestically and internationally, of the dire situation of Israel’s hard working diplomats.

Why have the Israeli diplomats decided to take these measures?

It may seem unusual for the diplomatic service of a country to become engaged in such a difficult labor dispute. This is especially true in relation to Israel’s diplomats, who are well known around the globe for their commitment and their excellent ability to represent Israel with the many different challenges it faces.

Precisely because of their deep commitment to Israel’s international standing and national security, Israel’s diplomats insist that their reasonable demands be met. Among them are a long-overdue adjustment of the salary to the rise in the cost of living, an end to a discriminatory tax policy, consideration of the dear price paid by “trailing” spouses and children in terms of loss of income, career and pension, and a decent compensation for extra hours.

It is unfortunate that the same dedicated civil servants, who receive praise wherever they are stationed in the world as representatives of Israel, are met with nothing but scorn by the Finance Ministry bureaucrats, who know little about the importance of diplomacy to national security. This is true always, but more so in a country like Israel, which is faced with an unparalleled range of challenges in the international arena.

The Times of Israel reports that “no diplomatic passports are being issued and “no assistance whatsoever” is being granted to Israeli officials abroad.”  All consular services to Israeli citizens have reportedly been suspended with exceptions made in cases where lives are in danger or bodies need to be returned to Israel for burial.

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