The boycott being waged by Foreign Ministry employees against Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz has reached new heights. Foreign Ministry diplomats and security officials in the Israeli consulates in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are refusing to help with Steinitz's upcoming visit to the United States in any way, including with his security arrangements.
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For the last few weeks, Foreign Ministry employees have been implementing labor sanctions that are becoming more and more serious. They are protesting the erosion of their wages, as well as what they are calling "the fragmentation of the Foreign Ministry."
Israeli diplomats are protesting the fact that no minister has been appointed to head the Foreign Ministry, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reserves the position until former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's trial ends; and that the ministry's responsibilities are being parceled out to a number of other ministers.
In particular, the staff at the Foreign Ministry is upset about the creation of Steinitz's new ministry, which they deem to be a political condolence prize for losing his post as Finance Minister. Israeli diplomats say this is an attempt to create an appearance of an alternative Foreign Ministry. As a result, all Foreign Ministry staff have been instructed to boycott Steinitz and his ministry completely.
In a message sent out by the Foreign Ministry's union on March 20 to all employees stationed in Israel and all over the world, the union wrote: "Professionally, it is clear that this is a ministry of 'nothing' affairs that wastes all our tax money, and subverts the professional actions of the Foreign Ministry; and therefore is a danger to the national security of the State of Israel."
This coming Sunday, Steinitz is scheduled to leave for a short trip to the United States. The focus of the visit is his participation in a conference in Los Angeles, though he will also visit New York and San Francisco. In advance of his trip, Steinitz's office asked the Foreign Ministry for help in preparing his visit.
Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry's union sent out an urgent telegram with brief instructions to the three Israeli consulates involved: "We want to emphasize that as part of the declared sanctions, do not handle any aspect of this visit – whether diplomatic, administrative or security." The message was sent to consul generals, administrative officers and the head of security at the Foreign Ministry, who is in charge of the security officers for all Israeli missions overseas.
Foreign Ministry officials told Steinitz's staff that they refuse to cooperate with the trip in any way, Foreign Ministry officials told Haaretz.
The Shin Bet security service, which is responsible for Steinitz's security during his time in the U.S., requested from the three security officers in charge at the consulates involved to aid in making security arrangements with the local police and with the airports where Steinitz will be traveling - but they refused. As a result, the Shin Bet's unit for VIP security was forced to make all the necessary arrangements directly with the U.S. Secret Service and the State Department.
Although sources in the Foreign Ministry say attempts were made to "break the strike," when the Shin Bet attempted to asked the consulate security officers to handle a number of administrative matters related to Steinitz's visit, the Foreign Ministry's head of security gave clear instructions to the security officers not to comply with the Shin Bet's requests.