Anti-Morsi protests in Cairo 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Let’s face it: In Israel diplomat-bashing is a national sport. Our
representatives abroad are simultaneously reviled and envied for their alleged
princely lifestyle. Items reflecting badly on an ambassador or their spouse are
sure to make headlines. Yet Israelis, who are always complaining that the whole
world is against them, fail to see that their diplomats are out there trying to
stem the flow. That they are not doing too well reflects not on them, but on the
government which does not give them the tools they need.
There is no
money for public diplomacy, or “hasbara,” and less and less money for the
diplomats on the front lines. Salaries in Jerusalem have always been low, with
younger diplomats often receiving supplemental income from the state. Postings
abroad were better paid and families could save a little money. No more. In many
countries our diplomats just can’t make ends meet.
But that is not all.
Life abroad is getting increasingly hazardous for them and for their families.
They have to be constantly on the alert since they are a prime targets for
terrorists. Then there are the so-called “hardship posts,” such as some African
countries where electricity is in short supply and violence rampant. The
situation has gotten so bad ministry staffers are turning down once-coveted
Unfortunately, no one seems to care.
It’s been a
while since a minister of foreign affairs really thought about the people in the
ministry instead of seeing in his job a stepping stone to better things. Today
there is not even a full-time minister. So the workers’ union launched a labor
dispute in a desperate effort to get things moving.
Weeks of negotiations
have led precisely nowhere. The Finance Ministry has little sympathy for them.
On June 13, the deputy finance minister went as far as to say that “Knesset
members can only envy the diplomats’ conditions.”
Unfortunately there was
no one to point out that the boot was on the other foot. The spouses of Knesset
members don’t have to give up their careers as do diplomatic spouses when posted
abroad. Nor do their children have to change schools and languages time and time
While Knesset members and their families keep on living safely in
Israel, diplomats have to face hostility and danger in many countries. In the
Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, a small room is dedicated to the memory of the
men and women of the foreign service who died in terror attacks abroad. Happily
MKs and their families have been spared so far.
And so the standoff goes
on. Critics are accusing ministry workers of damaging Israel’s image and
Israel’s foreign relations. They are also saying that now is not the time to ask
for more money; while budget cuts are hurting most Israelis. However, giving the
money allotted to a wholly superfluous “international relations ministry” to the
Foreign Ministry might have gone a long way toward alleviating the
issue.The author is a former president of the association of Israeli