Netanyahu Calls in the Army to Bust Strike by Foreign Ministry Officials

Foreign Ministry employees, who are protesting their salary conditions, are angry at the Prime Minister's Bureau for turning to IDF military attache to help arrange cabinet ministers' trip to Poland.

With Foreign Ministry employees on strike, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Bureau asked a military attache to arrange an upcoming visit to the Polish capital by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other cabinet ministers, according to senior Foreign Ministry officials.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond to the report.

Netanyahu and a number of cabinet ministers will leave for Warsaw on June 12, for a summit with the Polish cabinet. But the organization of the visit has been stymied by sanctions by Foreign Ministry employees protesting their salary conditions.

A few days ago, the Foreign Ministry’s workers committee issued a directive not to cooperate in any way with Netanyahu and the cabinet ministers’ visit to Poland. The Israeli Embassy in Warsaw has been instructed not to help reserve hotel rooms for the ministers and their entourages, hold preparatory talks, coordinate with the Polish government or accommodate officials from the Prime Minister's Bureau who arrive to make preparations for the visit.

The Prime Minister's Bureau is trying to break the strike by organizing the summit in Poland without the assistance of the Israeli Embassy or the Foreign Ministry. Edna Halavani, head of the department in the Prime Minister’s Office that handles such visits, and deputy cabinet secretary Gabi Golan, who are together in charge of organizing the summit, approached the Israel Defense Forces military attaché in Warsaw two days ago and asked him to help organize the visit, according to Foreign Ministry officials. The attaché was surprised at the request and told them he needed to have a direct order from his commanders or from his superiors in the Defense Ministry, the officials said.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials said Halavani called representatives of the Foreign Ministry’s workers committee and expressed anger over the sanctions, which could make the visit impossible. She reportedly told the workers committee, “How can you strike and then expect that your people will be brought into meetings with the prime ministers and foreign leaders.”

The Prime Minister’s bureau also approached the Polish government to ask for help ordering hotel rooms. A source in the Foreign Ministry said the bureau had arranged with the Poles to send money to cover the hotel reservations for the ministers, their entourages and the Israeli press.

In an unusual move, the Prime Minister's Bureau sent a message to political reporters about the visit to Poland on Thursday – two weeks ahead of the visit. Normally such messages are sent just a week beforehand. The message said, “Due to logistical difficulties, early registration is required and cancellations are not possible.” The message was apparently sent early due to the ministers' dependence on the Polish government for hotel reservations.

Angered by the attempt by the Prime Minister's Bureau to break their strike through the military attaché, the Foreign Ministry workers committee asked senior Histadrut labor federation officials to inform the IDF and the Defense Ministry that the move was unacceptable.

Officials in the Foreign Ministry said that a few years ago, Netanyahu broke another strike by Israeli diplomats when he asked the Mossad intelligence service to arrange a visit for him to Greece. Following that incident, the Foreign Ministry cut all ties with the Mossad and provided no assistance or services to Mossad operatives abroad for a long period of time.

“If they use the army to break the strike, we will not take it in stride," a source in the Foreign Ministry said. “Naftali Bennett wants to use the army to break the port workers’ strike and the Prime Minister's Bureau wants to use the army to break the diplomats’ committee.”