A week after Foreign Ministry employees stopped providing consular services as
part of their wage dispute with the Treasury, the tourism and business sectors
are warning of impending crisis.
On Thursday, Michael Federman, chairman
of the Tourism Industries Liaison Bureau, wrote a letter to Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman, calling on him to take urgent action to end the strike in
order to prevent a financial crisis as well as severe harm to Israel’s
Top diplomats to PM: ‘Save the foreign service’
“After a long period of crisis, which we managed to overcome,
succeeding in greatly increasing the number of incoming tourists, we may once
again stand on the brink of a crisis because of the labor disruptions,” Feldman
wrote. “In addition to the immediate financial damage caused by the cancellation
of tourist visits, Israel is also suffering a blow to its reputation, which may
erase our achievements. I urge you to do everything in your power to stop the
disruptions so that the tourism industry continue to bloom.”
director-general of the Incoming Tourist Board, which associates dozens of
travel agencies and tour operators, said it was difficult to measure the precise
number of people who failed to come to Israel because of the strike, but that he
knew of several groups and individuals who had planned to arrive, but were
unable to do so because they couldn’t issue entrance visas.
especially harms the hoteliers and the organizers of international conferences
or conventions, people who depend on incoming visitors for their livelihood and
have no idea when they will be able to carry on normally,” Etgar said.
a letter he sent to Lieberman earlier this week, with copies to the prime
minister and the ministers of finance and tourism, Etgar wrote, “The
implications of ceasing to give out visas translates to income losses for
hotels, tourism operators, transportation companies, tour guides, commercial
airlines and others in the tourism industry.”
Etgar said that he had yet
to receive a response from any of the ministers.
According to Etgar, some
people, who come from countries where Israel does not have an embassy, can still
be issued visas through the Ministry of Interior’s visa department with aid of
travel agents, but that this was only a partial solution and only suitable for a
small number of people.
Lior Gelfand, director of ORTRA, a company that
specializes in organizing conferences, said the continued strike harmed Israel’s
business interests, because some people who planned to come to meet with local
colleagues and sign deals were unable to arrive.
ourselves in the foot here.
These are people who want to come here and do
business with Israeli companies, but can’t because of the strike. If it
continues they will simply give up on it and go on to the next country. They
don’t have time to wait until the Foreign Ministry gets its act together,” he
Gelfand expressed particular concern over cancellations ahead of an
large tourism conference in February.
“We have people from places like
Thailand, India, Romania etc... who have scheduled their arrival, booked their
hotels, set up meetings and now have to cancel everything because they can’t get
These cancellations cost money,” Gelfand said. “The height of
absurdity is that for the upcoming tourism conference, we, together with the
Tourism Ministry, have invited 150 ‘hosted buyers’ to come here, at our expense,
to help us market the Israeli tourism product in their countries. These people
are influential agents in their market.
Not enabling some of them to come
means that instead of promoting Israel, we are actually damaging
Diplomatic worker’s committee spokesman Yacov Livne told The
Jerusalem Post that the staffers were aware of the harm that was being caused to
the tourism and business sectors by the strike and said it would probably only
increase in the weeks and months to come. He urged Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu to intervene to bring the strike to an end.
“Both we and the
Israeli public at large are wondering why he has failed to take any steps toward
ending the strike, which is harming Israel financially and
We see the damage after only one week and dread to see
what will happen if the strike carries on for much longer,” Livne
Ministry workers have been waging a work dispute since February
2010 in an effort to equalize their pay and work conditions with those of
Defense Ministry and Mossad employees. Last week, the workers committee stepped
up sanctions, including a complete stop in issuing visas.
Ministry’s website currently features the following message: “Due to the ongoing
labor dispute at the Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Service Workers’ Association
has declared a series of work sanctions as of December 27, 2010. Consequently,
the Consular Department will not be providing services to the public, and will
not answer phone calls or e-mails.”
The Tourism Ministry spokeswoman said
the ministry was closely following the developments in the strike and hoped that
it would come to an end soon and with minimum harm to the tourism sector.