Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Following an emergency meeting of Foreign Ministry workers on Tuesday to discuss severe cuts in the ministry’s budget, workers are expected to initiate protest actions in the coming days to “save Israel’s foreign service,” according to Hanan Godar, chairman of the worker’s committee.
Godar said steps will be publicized in the next few days and will be intensified if necessary. At this time there was no intention to take any action that would impinge on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned trip to the annual UN General Assembly debate in New York next week, he said.
Tuesday’s meeting came amid a steady erosion of both the ministry’s budget and authority. Workers did not accept Godar’s recommendations for immediate work sanctions.
The meeting took place a month after the ministry’s budget was hit with significant cuts. It also followed just three days after Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, was quoted in Makor Rishon as having said in a private meeting that ministry workers were “not fighting, only reporting.”
Godar told The Jerusalem Post said that Israel today is effectively functioning “without a Foreign Ministry. Netanyahu has decided that he doesn’t need a Foreign Ministry.”
Godar said that the disregard with which Netanyahu holds the Foreign Ministry is now causing mutual disregard. “If you don’t give respect, you will not be respected,” he said.
“Show me another minister who has only met with the worker’s committee once over two years,” he said. “Show me another minister who does not come or sit in his ministry.
Show me another minister that fights for budget cuts in his own ministry.”
As a result of the two-year budget approved last month, the ministry will have to cut NIS 50 million from its budget and eliminate 120 positions.
Twenty of those will come from abroad, 30 in Israel and another 70 from positions overseas being staffed by Israelis living outside the country and foreigners.
Netanyahu’s comments reported on Friday came in the context of efforts to find a third country to accept illegal African migrants, something the ministry reportedly said would not be possible. He was also reported as having said that there is “hidden unemployment in the ministry.”
Netanyahu’s office issued a denial of these comments, saying the prime minister appreciates the “dedicated and professional work” done by ministry employees here and abroad, and that they have “an important part in opening Israel’s diplomatic relations.
“I saw first hand the work of the Foreign Ministry on the diplomatic front on my last visit in Africa, and also in other capitals around the world,” he said. “I am very appreciative of the achievements to fortify Israel’s international standing and security.”
Foreign Ministry director- general Dore Gold repeated those sentiments in a letter sent to ministry workers on Tuesday, adding that everyone agrees that there is a need to “strengthen that standing of the Foreign Ministry and its workers, in order to deal with the challenges facing the foreign service at this time.”
At the same time, he warned that a lack of internal unity in the ministry and “unilateral steps” are likely to have the opposite effect.