Foreign Ministry strike shutters embassies, consulates abroad

Katz still set to visit Athens

Signs around the Israeli Embassy in Washington (photo credit: ISRAELI EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON)
Signs around the Israeli Embassy in Washington
Israeli diplomats shuttered the gates to the country’s embassies and consulates around the world on Wednesday as a seemingly never-ending work dispute burst into the open when the Finance Ministry failed to honor an agreement hammered out in July.
Hebrew and English signs on the iron fence surrounding the embassy in Washington read, “Strike! The Embassy of Israel in Washington is closed! There will be no entry to the embassy or work conducted in it!”
Similar signs were posted at Israeli delegations around the globe, as well as an explanatory note saying that the move comes following a unilateral decision by the Finance Ministry to breach protocols that have been in place for decades.
The explanation said that the Finance Ministry decision has harmed Israel’s “vital interests.”
“We hope the crisis will be resolved as soon as possible,” the explanation read.
In July, a joint negotiating team representing Foreign and Defense Ministry workers reached an agreement with the Treasury that averted the closure of Israeli embassies and consulates abroad, and whereby expenses incurred by workers abroad would not be included in their global salary and taxed at a 40% rate.
For decades, workers abroad submitted expenses they incurred abroad and were reimbursed for them. Starting in January, and up until July, the Finance Ministry demanded that the expenses be paid as part of the workers global salary, and taxed. They recently reinstated this policy, infuriating the Foreign Ministry workers.
“Due to the [Finance Ministry’s] breaching of longstanding agreements with [Foreign Ministry] employees, we are forced to close Israeli missions around the world AS OF TODAY, OCTOBER 30. No consular services will be provided, entry into the missions will not be allowed,” the Foreign Ministry tweeted on Wednesday. “The Finance Ministry’s ongoing disruption of the vital diplomatic tools of the State of Israel have left MFA employees with no choice but to pursue sanctions. We hope that this crisis will be promptly resolved.”
A Finance Ministry spokesperson, however, said that Foreign Ministry employees are required to pay taxes like everyone else. They are not “above the law,” he said.
“We regret that in trying to improve their personal conditions, Foreign Ministry employees are choosing to avoid paying taxes and harming essential services,” the spokesperson said.
Despite the strike, Foreign Minister Israel Katz was scheduled to leave Wednesday evening for Athens and a meeting there with Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos (Nikos) Dendias, where Katz is expected to ask Greece to join an Israeli initiative to provide humanitarian aid to Kurds in northern Syria who have been harmed by the Turkish invasion.