Israeli Diplomats Ordered to Cut Ties With PMO, Defense Ministry

Foreign Ministry workers' committee adopts strict labor sanctions in salary dispute with Finance Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry's worker committee announced on Tuesday that it would adopt an unprecedented series of labor sanctions, due to an ongoing dispute with the government.

The labor sanctions are being adopted in an effort to raise the ministry's pay scale and promotion levels to match those of the Defense Ministry and intelligence agencies, and will include the cessation of ties with the Prime Minister's office and the Defense Ministry.

The workers' committee on Tuesday sent a memo to all diplomats working in Israel and abroad to explain the failure thus far of negotiations with Director-General Yossi Gal and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that the ministry is unwilling to meet its employees' demands.

It went on to order the diplomats to suspend all contact with the Prime Minister's Office, the Defense Ministry and the National Security Council. The sanctions, however, will not include ties with the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad intelligence agency.

"Do not answer any request from these offices until further notice," the memo instructed diplomats, adding that despite the regret this decision causes, the workers face no choice but to go ahead.

Ya'akov Livneh, head of the diplomatic workers' committee, stressed that the labor sanctions are not being directed at Foreign Ministry management, but rather at the Finance Ministry. Livneh expressed hope that the Treasury would soon offer a response to the workers' demands.

The labor sanctions are likely to cripple a significant portion of Israel's diplomatic activities - including Defense Minister Barak's visit this week to the United States, which could be disrupted if Israel's embassies do not cooperate.