Israeli Diplomats Go On General Strike, Shut Down Embassies Worldwide
Israel's Foreign Ministry employees declared a general strike on Sunday, closing the ministry and all the country's embassies and consulates around the world for the first time.
"As of March 23, 2014 at 15:00 a general strike has been declared at the Foreign Ministry. The Ministry in Jerusalem will remain closed and Israel's missions abroad will not open as of Monday morning, March 24," a notice on the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry on 23 March, 2014 said.
All 103 of Israel's embassies, consulates, and diplomatic delegations across the world will be closed, including the ministry's headquarters in Jerusalem, according to Israeli media reports.
"Israel's diplomats will no longer engage with foreign representatives, take care of official visits of any kind, either in Israel or overseas, issue visas or provide any consular services," the official statement said.
This is just part of an extended list of organizational measures which will take effect immediately, after the Ministry of Finance caused the failure of a seven-month mediation process led by the former Chief Justice of the Labor Court.
The Foreign Ministry's employees have been engaged in a struggle to improve their working conditions for more than a year. The diplomats are demanding an increase in monthly salaries, ranging between GPB 1,049 - GBP 1,570 a month, and compensation for their spouses loss of earnings for having to give up work when posted abroad, the Telegraph reports.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman condemned the strike as irresponsible, saying it harms the State.
"It is a miserable decision that points to loss of control. It has no benefit and only causes more damage to the ministry's workers."
"I regret that irresponsible measures come at the expense of the country's citizens, while negotiations are underway with the Finance Ministry, and a mediation process aimed at reaching a fair agreement. We will do everything necessary to minimize the damage caused to the country and its citizens," the minister said in a statement.
An extended strike might potentially harm Israeli diplomacy since the foreign ministry is responsible for organizing visits of incoming foreign dignitaries, as well as Israeli ministers' trips abroad, the Telegraph notes.
The Vatican may be forced to call off a two-day visit by Pope Francis to the Holy Land, scheduled for 24-25 May.