Israeli Diplomats to Protest Against the Shin Bet Over Foreign Ministry Strike

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Shin Bet security service agents arriving at their Tel Aviv headquarters Wednesday morning will be met by some 100 Foreign Ministry workers protesting what they call the "Shin Bet assistance in the effort to break the diplomats' strike."

Foreign Ministry sources told Haaretz the Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Workers' Union called the demonstration because the Shin Bet is the leading, and perhaps only, defense organization that is actively assisting in efforts to break the three-month labor dispute. The Defense Ministry, Israel Defense Forces and Mossad have all declared they will not break the strike by taking over Foreign Ministry official roles.

The Shin Bet organized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official visit to Poland in place of the striking Foreign Ministry employees and has continued to process and organize official visits of foreign leaders to Israel, normally processed by Foreign Ministry workers.

"Shin Bet agents should deal only with securing the visit, but now they supply drivers, coordinate logistic matters and take responsibility for all aspects of the visit," a Foreign Ministry source told Haaretz.

The Foreign Ministry's union asked Shin Bet personnel officials to ensure the security service does not take action that would harm the industrial action. The Foreign Ministry source said the union received a negative answer, with the Shin Bet officials saying they were "just following orders."

The Wednesday-morning rally was coordinated with the police and is set to be the first-ever demonstration in front of the Shin Bet's Tel Aviv headquarters. Some 100 diplomats are expected to attend the rally, with many taking busses from the Foreign Ministry building in Jerusalem.

Union chairman Yair Fromer said the way Netanyahu was using the Shin Bet to break the strike would damage future relations between the Foreign Ministry and the security service.

"This is one of the consequences of failing to solve the dispute," Fromer said. "These are two organizations that must work together, but due to what happened, it will take a long time to reestablish good faith."

The workers' sanctions began in March in protest of an erosion of salaries and what they called a government process of "slicing up the Foreign Ministry." The diplomats are demanding a collective agreement, a procedure for compensating spouses who are living abroad but not working and an end to double taxation of diplomats. They also oppose Foreign Ministry responsibilities being shifted to other ministries and the fact that a full-time Foreign Minister has not yet been appointed.

In the past three months, Foreign Ministry employees have stopped sending diplomatic cables, processing documents for ministers traveling abroad and issuing diplomatic passports. They have also stopped cooperating with the Defense Ministry and halted practically all consular services abroad, except for in emergencies.

On Sunday, Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin held a meeting in his office with Finance Ministry representatives and union officials in an effort to overcome the long standing deadlock, urging them to begin intensive negotiations three times a week. Both sides agreed, but huge gaps remain between them.

Foreign ministry employees protesting in June, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman

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