Report: Foreign Ministry Workers to ‘Disrupt’ Rivlin Trip to South Korea

President Reuven Rivlin. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Government offices are quite upset over the decision by the government earlier this week to slash the state budget – and at the Foreign Ministry, workers have decided that the best way to show their displeasure is by making it difficult for President Reuven Rivlin to travel on a state visit to South Korea, Maariv reported.

The visit is supposed to take place in the coming weeks, but without support from the Ministry in making arrangements with South Korean officials, many aspects of the protocol of the visit would be impossible to arrange – thus jeopardizing the trip from taking place at all.

Maariv published the contents of a letter it obtained from representatives of Ministry workers, who fear that the budget cuts will affect their salaries or positions. “With a heavy heart we are forced to halt our arrangements for the visit of the President to South Korea,” the letter said. “This is after a decade in which there was no high-level visit between the states.”

Despite protests by ministers, the government voted Monday to cut some 1 billion shekels from the current state budget. The cuts will reduce funding for nearly all ministries. The NIS 1.234 billion shekels taken away from the ministries will be used to fund security needs – to the tune of NIS 800 million – as well as to subsidize after-school programs, which will receive NIS 350 million. Another NIS 80 million was allocated to assist victims of the fire that nearly destroyed the town of Mevo Modi’in last month.

Numerous ministers have voiced opposition to the cuts. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that “cutting our budget will bring an end to efforts to increase law enforcement in the Arab sector, and halt a program to build new police stations in Arab towns. It will also affect out efforts to ensure security in Yerushalayim.” Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said that the cuts were “an immediate danger to the welfare of the sick.” Welfare Minister Haim Katz had previously said he would vote against any budget cuts, saying that they would “further weaken the poorest sectors.” In the end, no ministers voted against the cuts.

Maariv reported that workers at the Foreign, Defense, and Economy Ministries have decided to institute sanctions to protest cuts to the budgets of their staffs abroad. The workers claim that the cuts are harming their ability to do their job, making it difficult to meet with officials and government leaders, by limiting the budgets for events in which those officials and leaders are hosted.