Foreign Ministry Strike Could Hobble Netanyahu Trip

YERUSHALAYIM -
The entrance to the Foreign Ministry in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the latest flareup in budgetary disputes at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the workers union announced on Thursday that they will not be handling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu travel arrangements abroad until further notice, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.

The strike will also mean that Israeli embassy workers will not issue diplomatic passports to ministers, Knesset members and state emissaries, or process applications and licenses for arms sales.

Netanyahu is expected to remain home during the summer to lead his campaign for reelection, but if not settled in time, the labor dispute could cause problems for a visit to India in early September, just ahead of the election.

Foreign Ministry workers announced last month that they would be ramping up protests after the government passed a sweeping NIS 1.2 billion ($333 million) spending cut they said put intolerable strain on an already cash-strapped ministry.

The cutbacks, made under pressure of a ballooning state budget deficit, have already affected services abroad, curtailing travel of ambassadors, consuls and roving embassy workers in dozens of countries. Israeli embassies in India and China suspended issuance of tourist visas, and consulates in New York and Los Angeles stopped issuing Israeli passports, Haaretz reported.

A recently published state comptroller’s report detailed substandard living conditions for Israeli diplomats in various countries.

“We don’t even have the budget for train tickets or a cup of coffee during a work meeting,” an unnamed diplomat told Haaretz on Thursday.

Ministerial employees have struck before, in wage and budget disputes in 2014 and 2016, after protracted negotiations with the Finance Ministry.