Israel said planning to close consulate in Atlanta, 6 other missions amid cuts
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Israel said planning to close consulate in Atlanta, 6 other missions amid cuts

Embassies in Ireland, Belarus, Eritrea, Dominican Republic, consulate in Bengaluru, and embassy in either Latvia or Lithuania reportedly on chopping block

Illustrative: A pro Israel rally in Atlanta on July 25, 2014  (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
Illustrative: A pro Israel rally in Atlanta on July 25, 2014 (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

Israel is likely to close its consulate in Atlanta and missions in six other countries, citing budget cutbacks, a media report said.

Also facing closure are the Israeli embassies in Ireland, Belarus, Eritrea, the Dominican Republic, the consulate in the Indian city of Bengaluru and an embassy in either Latvia or Lithuania, Yedioth Aharonoth reported Friday.

On Friday the Foreign Ministry announced that following budget negotiations with the Finance Ministry, it plans to close seven diplomatic missions over the next three years, while Israel’s 100 remaining overseas missions will see a boost of NIS 175 million (about $50 million) in total for increased programming.

The statement said it had not yet decided which missions are to be shuttered. A committee was to submit recommendations by January 19 ahead of a final decision.

If Israel closes the consulate in Atlanta, it would be the second one in the US to close in recent years, following the shuttering of the mission in Philadelphia.

Also, news of the plans to close the consulate in Bangaluru, India’s high-tech hub, comes on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to India. India is one of the most important countries to Israel and relations have been improving steadily.

The money saved by the closures is expected to return to the Foreign Ministry.

The Finance Ministry also backtracked on plans cut a significant number of staff, agreeing that there would be no layoffs.

Ministry workers recently received a significant wage boost as an incentive to increase their work abroad, the ministry said. Living cost allowances for many countries had not been updated in more than a decade.

The final details of the budget will be confirmed by the end of the month.

The agreement is better than expected for ministry workers, after a document released earlier this week had proposed cutting 22 Israeli missions and eliminating 140 out of 686 of the Jerusalem-based staff.

Netanyahu, who is also the country’s foreign minister, has frequently talked of improving ties around the world, announcing last month that a new Israeli embassy will open in Rwanda.

But the ministry’s budget and conditions have been eroded over the past decade.

Diplomats went on strike in 2014, and again in 2016 after the treasury dragged its feet on implementing the 2014 agreement that ended the earlier strike.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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