Foreign ministry threatens to disrupt Lapid’s trip to UN

Claiming poor working conditions, staffers will not coordinate meetings for the prime minister with foreign leaders or deal with security or logistics. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Staffers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are threatening to hinder the prime minister’s trip to the U.S. in September in protest of their poor work conditions, Ynet reported Monday.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid is planning to attend the opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) for the first time as Israel’s leader. The employees intend to turn their backs on all preparations for the visit, whether logistical, political, or protective.

The instructions, says the report, are quite specific. For one, the staffers will not coordinate meetings between Lapid and other heads of state,nor prepare any of the contents for those meetings.

Usually the Israeli prime minister speaks to several of the dozens of leaders who come to address the annual opening of the assembly. Some he meets with openly, and others he speaks with in closed rooms on the sidelines of the event.

The employees will also abstain from mundane but necessary activities such as issuing diplomatic visas and booking hotels and cars for the prime minister and his entourage. Nor will they assist with security coordination.

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The report said that the Prime Minister’s Office is expected to work around the interference by activating its own visit-coordination system and using Mossad and Shabak personnel for protection.

The ministry’s Workers’ Committee criticized the workaround, saying, “Using the security forces as a tool to circumvent legal sanctions of workers is a very serious action that violates the fundamental right to strike.”

Lapid, who held onto his title as Foreign Minister when he moved up to his new office in June, has so far ignored his underlings’ longstanding complaints, according to the ministry’s most senior staffers.

A few weeks before he gained the top office and already six months into the labor dispute, more than a hundred diplomats and consuls wrote to Lapid to say a strike was possible.

“Without pay for overtime and on-call hours, without regular promotions, without concern for the spouses and families and without improved labor conditions for security and other staff, Foreign Ministry workers will continue to incur economic and personal harm and feel frustrated and bitter,” they wrote in part.

Dozens of personnel also held a protest outside the government offices in Jerusalem right before U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit in July, calling on Lapid to “take responsibility and solve the crisis.”

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According to a 2020 state comptroller’s report, the Foreign Ministry is critically underbudgeted.

Until now, regular citizens have mostly borne the brunt of the sanctions. Passports cannot be renewed in several major countries and cities abroad, such as Germany, France, New York and Miami. Many children of elderly parents cannot get home healthcare providers, the construction industry experiences difficulty finding workers, and farmers cannot hire help from the Philippines, India and Nepal, as the ministry won’t provide the necessary work visas.

In addition, help in an emergency may have to wait for regular working hours, as the unionized employees have refused to do overtime since January, saying they aren’t paid for this extra time in the office.