Foreign Ministry Union Warns IDF, Shin Bet Chiefs: Don't Help Organize Netanyahu's Trip Abroad

Foreign Ministry threatens to disrupt cooperation with IDF, Shin Bet if they help organize PM's upcoming trip to Poland while the ministry staff are on strike.

The Foreign Ministry's employees' union has sent an urgent letter to Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, asking them to refrain from helping to organize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Poland while ministry employees are on strike.

Haaretz revealed last week that the slowdown at the Foreign Ministry almost led to the cancelation of a visit by Netanyahu and six other ministers to Poland on June 12 being canceled. Netanyahu's office took the irregular step of trying to break the strike by directing the IDF military attaché in Warsaw to organize the trip in place of the ministry.

"It has come to our attention that the IDF and the Shin Bet have been instructed to deal with issues that are under the sole responsibility of the Foreign Ministry, and which are not being dealt with now because of the workers dispute in the Foreign Ministry," the letter said. (To see the full letter in Hebrew, click here).

"Ordering a security body in the State of Israel to break the sanctions of workers' organizations is grossly immoral. A black flag hangs over this instruction. As commanders of the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet Security Services, you cannot aid the breaking of sanctions by an organization whose purpose is to protect citizens in the country and not to break strikes," the letter continued.

The letter contained a veiled threat by the employees' union that it will take action against IDF and Shin Bet attachés in Israeli embassies abroad if they help organize Netanyahu's trip.  

"We ask and hope that you will not follow these instructions, we do not under any circumstance want to be in the position where we are forced to take steps that harm the current cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and the security bodies that you command," the union highlighted in the letter.

Sources in the Foreign Ministry said that during the last strike by ministry employees, the Prime Minister's Bureau asked Mossad representatives in Washington to organize Netanyahu's visit to the American capital. The Mossad's assistance led to tensions between the Foreign Ministry and the secret service, which culminated in an apology from the head of the Mossad to Foreign Ministry staff.

As part of their protest efforts over the last three months, Foreign Ministry employees at embassies around the world stopped dispatching diplomatic cables from Israeli embassies around the world, launched a protest of the Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Ministry headed by Yuval Steinitz, refrained from issuing diplomatic passports to senior Israeli officials, and started coming to work in jeans and sandals.

The Foreign Ministry Employees Committee issued directives to all staff last month in Israel and abroad instructing them to "immediately stop all handling of visits by any ministerial or governmental officials abroad." The directive was not intended to pertain to the prime minister, who is serving as acting foreign minister, nor to Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin.

The Prime Minister's Bureau tried 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 IDF military attaché in Warsaw last week 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.

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.