Several Israeli ambassadors accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday of failing to fund their offices and causing what they said was an unprecedented crisis, prompting a promise from the premier to reverse the steps he has taken in recent years.
During an annual gathering of Israeli envoys at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Netanyahu, who is also the acting foreign minister, spoke about the need to change voting patterns in international forums.
But during a closed part of the meeting, when they could ask Netanyahu questions, the ambassadors railed against budget cuts in the Foreign Ministry and the reassigning of some of its responsibilities to other ministries, Hebrew-language media reported.
“The Foreign Ministry’s condition has never been this bad,” said Israel’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Aviv Shir-On. “There is no budget for activities, there are no means. We are constantly busy with challenges but we can’t then find out that we aren’t remunerated.”
The Foreign Ministry workers union has been protesting budget cuts that have included salary reductions to envoys and the closure of diplomatic missions, and has been threatening to strike.
“It has reached a point where we can’t work,” Shir-On charged. “The State of Israel is abandoning the commanders of its posts abroad and causing them to lose their motivation.”
The envoy in Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, agreed, saying: “A solution must be reached. People cannot work without receiving a salary.”
Aliza Bin Noun, Israel’s ambassador to France, added that the public image of the Foreign Ministry staff was negative and that they can’t deliver the country’s messages when they aren’t provided the tools, Ynet reported.
At that point, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely intervened to agree with Bin Noun.
“The ambassadors’ feeling is that the Israeli public doesn’t understand what they do and treats them as bureaucrats,” she said.
Netanyahu then responded by acknowledging that funds had been too decentralized.
“I intend to focus them back in the ministry after the elections,” he said. “I am considering reuniting portfolios that had been separated from the Foreign Ministry to return positions and responsibilities to it.”
Netanyahu also said he intends to “get rid” of some of the portfolios he currently holds and appoint a full-time foreign minister, Haaretz reported.
In addition to the premiership, Netanyahu has also appointed himself defense minister, foreign minister, health minister and immigrant absorption minister.