An employee checks an Elbit Systems Ltd. Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the company's drone factory in Rehovot.
(photo credit: OREL COHEN/REUTERS)
The Defense Ministry workers committee halted work on facilitating defense-related exports on Tuesday as part of an ongoing dispute over workers’ rights abroad.
In October 2018, the workers committees of the defense, foreign and economy ministries announced a joint labor dispute, backed by the Histadrut labor federation.
The dispute relates to proposed taxation of “representation fees,” used by diplomats and other government representatives abroad to fund working meetings with foreign officials.
Stating that “good faith” had not been shown in negotiations between the sides, Defense Ministry workers committee chairman Sasson Peretz instructed workers on Tuesday morning to stop dealing with all defense-related export matters until the Finance Ministry commences “genuine” talks.
Under Israeli law, nobody is entitled to receive a defense marketing or export license unless they are registered with the ministry’s defense export registry.
“Emissaries of the ministries abroad are responsible for defense-related trade agreements worth hundreds of billions of dollars that cannot be cited but which contribute enormously to the State of Israel,” said Peretz.
“Representation fees are not hedonistic, but rather enable representatives to manage relations that yield agreements worth billions to the Israeli economy.”
On Thursday, a cross-ministry dispute headquarters was established by workers committees from the defense, foreign and economy ministries, threatening to escalate their fight against the cuts.
Former Israeli consul in Bangalore Dana Koresh said that representation fees constituted key “ammunition in building ties” with heads of state, and winning more deals for Israeli companies.
“I expect Finance Ministry officials, as experts in their field, to correctly conduct a cost-benefit analysis of our wise use of representation budgets,” Koresh said, adding that her team of four diplomats and commercial attaché secured deals worth $400 million in 2018 alone.
“Personal relationships are built through hospitality and the optimal utilization of the budget we receive for this purpose.”
Total Israeli military exports in 2018 were valued at $7.5 billion, according to Defense Ministry data, down from $9.2b. the previous year. Approximately 46% of defense exports were to Asia Pacific, followed by Europe (15%) and North America (6%).
The leading types of export, the ministry said, were offensive and defensive missile systems, followed by unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and radar and electronic defense systems.
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