On Wednesday, October 30, members of the Israeli diplomatic corps and military all around the world went on strike in protest of the recent changes to their payment scheme that were made by the Israeli Finance Ministry. Consulates and ambassadorships around the world closed up shop on the 30th and posted signs explaining they were closed and why they had decided to go on strike.
The specific reason why the Foreign Ministry workers union has gone on strike has to do with the way that the consulates and ambassadorships around the world receive their funding. Typically, individual consulates and ambassadorships receive individual stipends that are supposed to handle all of their expenses for a set period of time. These stipends have traditionally been untaxed and the disagreement that started the strike centers around the stipends being taxed in the future as well as being applied retroactively. This would mean that the already tight budgets the Foreign Ministry face would get even tighter, on top of the ministry then being forced to pay millions of dollars’ worth of back taxes. The Finance Ministry and Foreign Ministry had reached an agreement about payment and funding in July, but the Finance Ministry has backed off of the agreement, which prompted the Foreign Ministry workers to go on strike.
While the strike was active, Israeli citizens in foreign countries received no services from consulates, and no representatives of the Israeli government abroad attended scheduled meetings or diplomatic events. The Israeli Finance Ministry initially responded to the strike by calling the Foreign Ministry workers union greedy. Only a couple of days later, negotiations between the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry resulted in the creation of a temporary agreement ending the strike. By Friday of that week, the consulates and ambassadorships that had been closed reopened and resumed their typical activities, much to the relief of the Israeli government and its allies. This event, alongside the political instability that Israel has recently been facing, points to the potential for more major shake-ups in the Israeli government.
Joseph Doner – Political Editor