Foreign Ministry Shut as Striking Workers Block Entrances

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Striking workers at the entrance to the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem, March 24, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem were shut on Monday, as striking ministry workers blocked all entrances and prevented entry.

The workers declared a general strike on Sunday, closing all foreign ministry offices and missions around the world. The workers are protesting the employment conditions of Israeli diplomats and the Finance Ministry's decision to cut their salaries over the renewed sanctions.

As a result of the strike, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon cancelled a planned working visit to Rome next week.

The striking workers erected a protest tent at the entrance to the ministry early on Monday morning and blocked all access points with truckloads of garbage, assisted by members of the Histadrut's Jerusalem district.

Ministry Director-General Nissim Ben-Shitrit was prevented from entering the compound when he arrived for work on Monday morning. He left the ministry after a short conversation with the strikers, during which he expressed support for their struggle.

Dozens of Israeli missions in the Far East and Europe remained closed on Monday morning due to the strike. Security officers of the embassies in Rome, New Delhi, Paris, Brussels and other capitals prevented representatives of the Israel Defense Forces, the defense ministry, the Mossad and the economy ministry from entering the premises.

Missions in North America and Latin America will likewise remain closed on Monday. It is unclear what will happen at the Israeli embassy in Washington, where Ambassador Ron Dermer, a political appointee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposes the strike and does not regard himself as bound by the instructions of the workers' union.

The strikers have been making significant efforts to ensure that the Washington embassy remains closed, including to the dozens of representatives of government offices other than the foreign ministry who are based there.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has cancelled a planned work visit to Rome next week due to the strike. The Israeli military attaché in Rome, who arranged the visit without the assistance of the foreign ministry, was prevented from entering the embassy on Monday. The visit was intended to deal with security purchases and military cooperation with Italy.

Striking workers at the entrance to the Foreign Ministry on Monday morning.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi