Israeli diplomats in North America say lack of funds severely hampering their work

In letter, mission chiefs in US and Canada warn budget shortfall comes as ‘relations are on the verge of collapse with a large part of lawmakers and the Jewish communities’

Israel's Embassy to the United States in Washington, DC, file photo (CC-BY-SA Krokodyl/Wikimedia Commons)
Israel's Embassy to the United States in Washington, DC, file photo (CC-BY-SA Krokodyl/Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli diplomats in North America have warned the Foreign Ministry that funding shortfalls are severely inhibiting their work.

In a letter dispatched Tuesday to Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and director-general Ronen Levy, the diplomats said they were told at the start of January that they would not receive money for various activities and events, or for work travel, in the coming months.

“The absence of a budget… significantly impedes the missions’ ability to act and promote objectives that are essential to our mission,” the group wrote, according to the Ynet news site. “We’ve been forced to cancel planned events and we cannot carry out many activities and projects in a variety of fields — politics, academics, economics, culture and others.”

Citing the lack of travel funds, the diplomats said, “We cannot meet face-to-face with Congress members, governors, state lawmakers, university heads, Jewish community leaders and many other figures with whom we have cultivated ties, which are crucial for us in realizing our mission.”

They warned that they were similarly unable to take part in conferences and other events to which they were invited.

“These are being held without the diplomatic, economic, communal and communicative benefits that we derive from participating, including in the fight against delegitimization, BDS and rising antisemitism on campuses,” they said.

Illustrative: Anti-Israel students at Columbia University erected a mock ‘apartheid wall’ in front of the iconic Low Library steps during Israel Apartheid Week, March 3, 2016. (Uriel Heilman/JTA/File)

The diplomats also said they had not received any funds for Independence Day celebrations in April, which will mark 75 years since Israel’s founding.

“Along with the understanding that there are budgetary constraints, the harm we are experiencing is unreasonable in our eyes and hurts the State of Israel’s interests,” they said. “The State of Israel’s challenges in the international arena demand a continuous and professional response, with a long-term view. The serious harm to Israeli missions overseas has consequences now and in the future.

“We are dying to work but cannot leave the missions… during a situation in which relations are on the verge of collapse with a large part of lawmakers and the Jewish communities,” they added, apparently referring to concerns over the agenda of Israel’s new right-religious government.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog expressed support for the letter despite not signing it, according to Hebrew media reports.

Michael Herzog addresses the Conference of Presidents meet-up in Jerusalem, February 15, 2016 (Tamir Hayoun)

The signatories reportedly included Israeli Ambassador to Canada Ronen Hoffman and the heads of the consulates in Miami, New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Montreal and Toronto.

Responding to the letter, the Foreign Ministry acknowledged funding shortfalls were impeding the overseas missions’ work.

“The foreign minister and director-general are working tirelessly to enable the shifting of funds for the operations of the missions and we are happy that the Treasury is attentive,” a ministry statement said.

It added that the ministry had received a “special budget” for Independence Day events and vowed diplomatic missions “will return to full operations” once the next state budget is passed.

Foreign Ministry employees have made similar complaints in recent years over funding and wages, and in 2020 the State Comptroller’s Office issued a report finding that Israel’s foreign policy apparatus is woefully underfunded and uncoordinated.

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