Israel not paying dues to organizations as Foreign Ministry has no money

Business delegations in India, China and Turkey can't get visas to Israel because of ministry work sanctions.

July 8, 2019 21:02
3 minute read.
foreign minister

Protest banners on Foreign Ministry building in Jerusalem: The fight for home starts abroad.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Israel may be one of the OECD countries, and it may have the 34th highest gross domestic product in the world, but the Foreign Ministry this year does not have money to pay annual dues to a number of international organizations, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Diplomatic sources confirmed to the Post that because of a lack of funds, Israel has for the first time ever not paid its mandatory annual fees this year to the 47-member Council of Europe that sits in Strasbourg, or to the 43-member Union for the Mediterranean headquartered in Barcelona.

In addition, Israel has for the first time not paid a voluntary fee to a slew of UN organizations this year, such as the UN Development Program, the UN Population Fund, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Program, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and the Anna Lindh Foundation.

The sources said that the payment for each of the organizations varies, ranging from some $15,000 a year to $50,000 a year. Though there is no imminent danger of Israel being kicked out of any of these organizations at this time, “it doesn’t look good for Israel not to be paying its dues,” one source said. “If you want to be part of the international community, you have to be involved. We are a developed country, and the expectation is that we be a part of organizations that are promoting agendas we believe in.”

Hanan Godar, deputy chairman of the Foreign Ministry’s Workers’ Committee, said that Israel has never before been unable to pay its annual fees to these organizations.

In a related issue, a work slowdown in a number of Israeli embassies and consulates abroad over the last 10 days has led to an inability of businessmen and workers in China, India and Turkey to receive visas to come to Israel, and a halt to issuing passports to Israelis at the consulates in Los Angeles and New York.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often touts the importance of Israel’s economic ties with India and China, and how those countries need Israeli innovation, and Israel’s start-ups need those markets. Nevertheless, a blue-ribbon delegation of the CEOs of major Indian companies that is scheduled to arrive next week for four days may not materialize because of the failure of half the delegation to obtain visas.

That this 19-person delegation will not be able to come to the country could cost Israel tens of millions of dollars in potential business, diplomatic sources said. The delegation turned to India’s embassy in Tel Aviv for assistance, but was told that they are unable to do anything since this is an issue between the Israeli government and the workers.

According to Godar, the sanctions in the consulates are the result of cuts made in the overall salary of the ministry’s workers overseas. Godar said this is the continuation of a battle over the conditions abroad for workers that has been going on for years.
“Our problem is that there is no minister who is looking after the conditions of the workers in the ministry,” Godar said. “So we put the issue on the agenda through these actions – the problem is that in the process, we cause damage. But what can I do?”

The Foreign Ministry was without a full-time minister from May 2015 until February of this year, when Netanyahu held the portfolio. In February, he named Israel Katz acting foreign minister, and in June made that appointment permanent. Over the last number of years, the budget of the ministry has steadily decreased, as various responsibilities it used to perform were parceled out to other ministries.

Foreign Ministry workers often complain that morale at the ministry has never been lower, and that there is no money for travel, to bring in delegations, or even toner for printers. For instance, Godar said, last week Israel’s Ambassador to Finland, who is also responsible for Estonia, could not go to Tallinn following a cemetery desecration there because 60 euros were not available for his transportation costs.

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