Israel Diplomats' Strike Threatens PM's Washington Trip

Foreign ministry union orders staff not to cooperate with Netanyahu's delegation as direct peace talks restart in the United States.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to face serious obstacles as he travels to Washington for a high-profile peace summit – but this time it is his own diplomats, not the Palestinians, who are causing him strife.

On Tuesday the foreign ministry's workers' committee sent a telegram to Israel's Washington embassy, instructing staff there not to assist the prime minister during his visit.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting in the U.S. in January 2010.Credit: (GPO)

At a meeting early Tuesday, the committee decided to ramp up labor sanctions it imposed a few weeks ago to demand more pay.

The diplomats say they are fighting to bring their salaries and working conditions in line with those of the defense forces and the intelligence community.

As a result, embassy workers will refuse to assist in any administrative aspect of the visit, including hotel reservations, organizing transportation for the Netanyahu or his staff, and the prime minister's arrival at the airport.

They will also avoid dealing with press conferences, spokesmanship, briefings and coordination with U.S. officials.

Despite these sanctions, the foreign ministry believes that the prime minister's office will be able to carry out the visit without the help of the embassy, as much of the logistics of this U.S-organized summit will be taken care of by the White House.

A senior ministry source said that Israel's U.S. envoy Michael Oren, who was appointed directly by Netanyahu, will not cooperate with the strike.

"We hope that the rest of the embassy staff will obey the workers' committee's instructions," he added.

The strike has already caused tension between the foreign ministry an Israel's spy agency the Mossad. During Netanyahu's recent trip to Greece, diplomats accused the intelligence service of breaking their picket line after it stepped in to help organize the visit.



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