From the “Only in Israel” department

With thanks to the Times of Israel:

IDF intel head denied passport due to strike

Foreign Ministry workers, demanding better conditions, have halted all consular services

The head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, was denied a request to renew his diplomatic passport ahead of a trip to the US in the coming days, due to the ongoing strike of Foreign Ministry employees.

As part of a battery of labor sanctions, workers, who are demanding better pay from the Finance Ministry, have halted all consular work, including the issuing of new passports.

“Passports are not being issued, period,” a senior ministry official told Walla. “There’s nothing personal here against Kochavi or the IDF.”

The ongoing strike had threatened a visit this week by British Prime Minister David Cameron, which is nonetheless going ahead, and is complicating a planned visit by Pope Francis in May and an intended trip by President Shimon Peres to China.

Cameron is expected in Jerusalem on Wednesday, and will address the Knesset, despite the Foreign Ministry’s refusal to deal with any preparatory work or to assist with the visit in any way.

The papal visit is also still on for now, senior Vatican officials insisted over the weekend, despite contradictory statements by Israeli diplomatic sources.

The workers union, which is fighting for higher salaries and better work conditions for diplomats serving abroad, published a list of more than two dozen measures that took effect last Tuesday. For instance, Foreign Ministry officials said they’d no longer cooperate in organizing visits of foreign presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other officials.

Likewise, the diplomats are refusing to assist Israeli officials currently abroad or planning overseas trips. No diplomatic passports are being issued and “no assistance whatsoever” is being granted to Israeli officials abroad. In addition, all consular services to Israeli citizens have been suspended; exceptions are being made in cases where lives are in danger or bodies need to be returned to Israel for burial.

Last summer, the union initiated similar sanctions, which were suspended at the end of July when the diplomats and the Finance Ministry agreed to refer the matter to a mediator. But the talks broke down with no results.

From what I know of the details of the dispute, the Finance Ministry is playing for time because the Foreign Ministry employees have been treated abominably and badly exploited over the years. The employees are long overdue a meaningful settlement – meaning significant pay rises and enhancements to their benefits. You may safely assume that if the situation was anything different, the Finance Ministry would have been flooding the media (of all types) with stories to back up their long term rejection of the Foreign Ministry claims. The silence speaks volumes. For Israel’s sake, it should be sorted soon.