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The tense relations between the Foreign Ministry and the Mossad hit a new low yesterday, when the ministry workers' union instructed Israeli embassies and consulates worldwide to stop paying the expenses of Mossad employees.

The Foreign Ministry will no longer pay for family-related expenses such as school enrollment for children of Mossad personnel. The ministry is also considering halting payment of all wages to employees of the espionage agency.

The unprecedented move is a response by ministry employees to the Mossad's role in organizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Greece. Such tasks are normally handled by the Foreign Ministry, whose workers were on strike at the time.

The diplomats are still on strike, as part of their demand for increased wages.

The ministry union transmitted a cable to all employees abroad yesterday, instructing them to cut off all contact with Mossad officials. The cable stated that ministry workers did not intend to harm Mossad employees who serve in Israeli embassies abroad, because the ministry doesn't want to hamper efforts by an agency committed to preserving national security. "Nonetheless, their involvement in breaking the strike moved us to respond in the way in which we responded," the cable read.

The cable described in detail which punitive measures to take against the Mossad agents stationed in Israeli embassies. They include the withholding of all payment for expenses (a Foreign Ministry administrative officer is responsible for managing all financial affairs of those in the embassy, including payment of wages and return of expenses ); a cessation of all logistical assistance, including the issuance of visas, the arrangement of visits by senior Mossad figures, and the provision of diplomatic passports and a complete halt to all assistance in the area of room and board for Mossad officials and their families.

Senior ministry officials said yesterday they were infuriated by the fact that the Mossad helped break the diplomats' strike. The anger at the espionage agency has reached the point that the ministry will only cooperate with the Mossad in cases of life and death.

"We asked them a number of times to recant their intention to organize the prime minister's visit to Greece and to break the strike but they did not agree," said a senior Foreign Ministry official. "This was an explicit instruction from [Mossad chief] Meir Dagan, and they belatedly understood that they made a mistake. Now they can't save face."