Netanyahu's U.S. Trip Threatened by Disgruntled Foreign Ministry Staff

Committee representing diplomats demands wages comparable to those received by Defense Ministry and intelligence service employees.

Foreign Ministry employees threatened on Sunday to disrupt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming visit to the United States, as part of their partial strike demanding improved wage conditions for Israeli diplomats.

Following through with their plan, the committee representing the employees has instructed the Israeli embassy in Washington not to make arrangements for the prime minister's visit in early July.

Netanyahu is planning to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on July 6, more than a month after he canceled their previously scheduled talks in the wake of Israel's deadly raid on a Turkish-flagged humanitarian aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office
The White House

Six months ago the foreign ministry's workers' committee declared a labor dispute and stopped all working ties with the Prime Ministers' Office and the Defense Ministry. In addition, Israeli embassies stopped preparing for visits abroad by ministers and other senior officials, and diplomatic telegrams were not been delivered to either the Defense Ministry or the PMO.

Several weeks after declaring the labor dispute, the committee halted its sanctions and began negotiating the diplomats' wage agreement with the Foreign Ministry. The committee is demanding that its diplomats receive wages comparable to those given to employees of the defense ministry and intelligence services.

Negotiations over a wage agreement continued for several months, but a lag in results prompted the committee to renew its dispute.

"Unfortunately, we discovered that the finance ministry is complying with a foot-dragging policy," the committee said in a statement.

The employees began their second round of protests by coming to work in jeans and sandals, instead of the general dress code of suit and tie. The committee said that their protest could culminate in a complete cessation of the Foreign Ministry activities should their demands not be met.

"Our struggle is not against the foreign minister but in favor of the workers," the statement said.

The committee added that for now, the sanctions would not affect Israel's public relations activities relating to the Gaza flotilla raid.