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Israel’s Foreign Ministry Employees Strike, Closing Embassies

March 24, 2014 By:
JTA and JE Staff
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Striking workers protest outside the Foreign Ministry offices in Jerusalem on Monday. Photo by Meital Cohen/Flash 90.

The Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia is among 103 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world that are shutting down as employees declared a general strike against the Foreign Ministry. 

The strike, which is open ended, was called on Sunday following two weeks of labor sanctions and seven months of mediation.

“Today, for the first time in Israel’s history, the Foreign Ministry will be closed and no work will be done in any sphere under the ministry’s authority,” said a statement issued Sunday by the Foreign Ministry’s worker’s committee.

Employees are protesting, among other things, salary cuts, low pensions and poor compensation packages offered to spouses of overseas diplomats. They have been trying for more than a year to improve their working conditions.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem also was closed, preventing Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman from entering his office.

The strike could torpedo a planned visit by Pope Francis in May. Limited sanctions initiated two weeks ago caused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a trip to Latin America.

Damage to Israel’s economy due to the work dispute has totaled millions of dollars.

Elad Strohmayer, deputy consul general to the mid-Atlantic region, said in an email that the ministry has had a 30 percent drop out rate, mainly of young diplomatic recruits serving their first five years, because salaries have not been updated to the cost of living around the world for well over a decade. 

"Israeli diplomats serve their country with intense dedication, in face of many strategic structures and processes, most of which are hostile and damaging, equipped with sparse funding and not much more than their own ingenuity and prowess," Strohmayer wrote. "It is a sad day when mild-mannered diplomats...have to turn to the use of such undiplomatic measures."

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