Israeli Embassies Around the World Shut as Diplomats, Military Attachés Strike
All Israeli embassies and consulates around the world shut down early Wednesday as diplomats and military attachés went on strike in a long-simmering dispute with the Finance Ministry over expense stipends paid to envoys, Times of Israel reports.
The move, coordinated by the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Histadrut Labor Federation, came after the Treasury reportedly backtracked on previous understandings and said it would force the envoys to pay back thousands of dollars that they had been reimbursed for expenses.
The closure came into effect at 1 a.m on Wednesday morning Israel time.
“Due to the decision of the Israeli Ministry of Finance to breach understandings that were agreed upon and signed by the Director General of the Ministry of Finance on July 21, 2019, and to apply a one-sided procedure that alters a protocol that has been in place for several decades, we are forced to close the Embassy,” said statements posted on various mission websites.
“No consular services will be provided and no one will be allowed to enter the Embassy/Consulate,” the statement said.
The closures were likely to harm Israelis traveling abroad and in need of consular assistance for issues like lost passports or medical emergencies. The Defense Ministry stoppages would harm Israel’s defense cooperation with other countries and arms exports.
The dispute is over expense stipends paid to Israeli diplomats and Defense Ministry envoys stationed abroad that are meant to cover a wide array of expenses, from hosting events at an ambassador’s residence to transport costs.
The Treasury has been pushing to change the way it reimburses the costs and to tax the stipends, which would significantly hit the diplomats and attaches, who have long-complained about low salaries.
It now also wants to impose the new system retroactively, which would force the envoys to repay thousands of dollars.
“Israeli diplomats are committed at all times to strive to enhance Israel’s strength and resilience. Unfortunately, the decision of the Ministry of Finance does not leave us any choice but to take the above-mentioned action, since the vital interests of the State of Israel have been harmed,” the statement said. “We hope that this crisis will be resolved as soon as possible.”
Israeli diplomats have long complained about low wages and poor working conditions. Once every few years they enact labor sanctions, which are usually followed by a general strike — with mixed results. In January 2011, they thwarted a planned visit to Israel by then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, but otherwise successes have been rare for the Foreign Ministry’s workers union.
Three years later, after weeks of increased labor sanctions, which included the cessation of any contacts with foreign governments and the suspension of all consular services to Israelis abroad, they shut down the ministry’s headquarters in Jerusalem and 103 embassies and consulates worldwide for the first time in Israel’s history.
In November 2014, Histadrut labor union representatives signed a comprehensive agreement with Finance Ministry officials to increase pay for Israeli diplomats, ostensibly ending the workers union’s long struggle.
However, diplomats say that five years later it has still not been fully implemented.
Beyond pay, the ministry itself has struggled with massive budget cuts.
In September the Foreign Ministry announced that it was being forced to freeze most of its diplomatic activities worldwide due to a lack of funds.
The ministry said the instruction was given by the Finance Ministry’s accountant general, due to the “grave deficit” in its budget.
Activities that were suspended included diplomats’ overseas work trips, the formulation of new diplomatic initiatives and treaties, hosting delegations of foreign diplomats and journalists in Jerusalem, renovations and maintenance at the ministry headquarters, and so on.
Over the last 20 years, the budgets of all ministries have doubled — only that of the Foreign Ministry has been cut, and now stands at a paltry NIS 1.3 billion ($367 million) per annum.
Israel currently maintains 69 embassies, 23 consulates and five special missions, including its representative at the United Nations.
In May, a report by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira found that some Israeli ambassadors and their staff were living in uninhabitable conditions while on posts abroad. Shapira’s report said that many of the 250 or so properties and staff residences under the Foreign Ministry’s charge were in a dilapidated state.
Serbian President Congratulates Armenian Counterpart on Independence Day
Arayik Harutyunyan Partook in a Solemn Ceremony to Mark the Day of Stepanakert
Health Ministry: Armenia Expected to Get First Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine in 2021
5 Day Weather Forecast in Armenia
Lebanon’s PM-Designate Resigns After Failing to Form Govt
No Threat Can Force the People of Artsakh to Deviate from the Chosen Path: President Harutyunyan Convened an Enlarged Consultation
Armenia Records 49072 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases
U.S. Embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan Urge its Citizens Avoid Visiting Territories Near Armenia-Azerbaijan Border
Youth Sports, Fitness and Recreation Center is Being Built in Stepanakert
Turkish Prosecutor General's Office Launches Procedure to Deprive Armenian MP Garo Paylan of Immunity
People of Nagorno-Karabakh Should Be Able to Determine Their Status without Limitation: Nikol Pashinyan
Yervand Khundkaryan Not Elected CC President
The July Events Proved that Armenia Cannot be Talked to in the Language of Force and Threats: PM Receives Artsakh National Assembly Delegation
MFA: Both Armenia and Artsakh Authorities Received Mandate of their Peoples, Ready to Launch Dialogue with Authorities of Azerbaijan Enjoying Relevant Mandate of their People
Short Rain With Thunderstorm Is Predicted
Four People Wounded In A Knife Attack In Paris
Former Deputy Armen Pambukhchyan Appointed Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations
Artsakh Reports 10 New Coronavirus Cases during Past Day
N. Korea’s Kim Apologizes over Shooting Death of S. Korean
COVID-19: Armenia Reports 392 New Cases
Declaration on Proclamation of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Violation of the Rights of the Officer Gurgen Alaverdyan who Appeared Under the Azerbaijani Jurisdiction
Artsakh Women Participate in 1-Week Combat Preparedness Training at Initiative of Armenian PM’s Wife (PHOTOS)
Ancient Armenian Fortress Surfaces from under Lake Van
Artsakh Republic President Approved the New Composition of the Security Council of the Country
ICRC Representatives Visited Armenian Captives In Azerbaijan
Internal investigation Will Reveal All Circumstances of Disappearance of the Armenian Officer - Defense Minister
Azerbaijani Side Launches New Fortification Works on the Border, Armenian Side Suspends such Activities
Armenia, Artsakh ex-President Kocharyan: Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Has Never Been Part of Independent Azerbaijan
Armenia Records 47877 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases
Wind: 5 km/h