Foreign Ministry in Uproar Over Budget Cuts, Absentee Minister

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel’s Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Israel’s Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry workers are planning protest actions against budget cuts and the protracted lack of a full-time head while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to hold the portfolio for himself, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The protests, as yet unspecified, were decided at an emergency meeting on Tuesday where workers’ committee chairman Hanan Godar declared that something must be done to “save Israel’s foreign service.”

The new two-year state budget calls for a spending reduction of 50 million shekels, and the elimination of 120 positions. Twenty of those will come from abroad, 30 in Israel and another 70 from positions overseas being staffed by Israelis living outside the country and foreigners.

Godar said the actions would be unveiled in the next few days, though he promised that they would not disrupt Netanyahu’s trip to the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering in New York next week.

He claimed that the country is operating “without a Foreign Ministry. Netanyahu has decided that he doesn’t need a Foreign Ministry.”

He added that Netanyahu’s absence from the ministry and refusal to appoint a Foreign Minister has generated hard feelings. “If you don’t give respect, you will not be respected,” he said.

“Show me another minister who has only met with the worker’s committee once over two years,” he said. “Show me another minister who does not come or sit in his ministry.

Show me another minister that fights for budget cuts in his own ministry.”

Netanyahu denies charges that he disregards the ministry. The Prime Minister’s Office
issued a statement saying that he appreciates the “dedicated and professional work” done by ministry employees here and abroad, and that they have “an important part in opening Israel’s diplomatic relations.

“I saw firsthand the work of the Foreign Ministry on the diplomatic front on my last visit in Africa, and also in other capitals around the world,” he said. “I am very appreciative of the achievements to fortify Israel’s international standing and security.”

In a letter to employees on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said everyone agrees that there is a need to “strengthen that standing of the Foreign Ministry and its workers, in order to deal with the challenges facing the foreign service at this time.”

But, he warned, disunity and “unilateral steps” may have the opposite effect.