Israeli Foreign Ministry workers suspend strike

(JTA) — A six-month strike by Israeli Foreign Ministry workers that jeopardized Israeli diplomatic relations with work slowdowns has been suspended.

At a meeting Wednesday at the Finance Ministry, representatives of the Foreign Ministry’s union “got the impression that there was a real discussion on real issues, and so they suspended the strike,” Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told JTA. “Clearly, if talks are derailed or frozen or not taken seriously by the Finance Ministry, the suspension will be unsuspended.”

The labor dispute had threatened to harm Israel’s delicate diplomatic relationships, even scuttling overseas trips by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Only an 11th-hour appeal from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman saved Netanyahu from operating without diplomatic staff support during his visit to Washington this week.

Foreign Ministry employees launched their work slowdown in February in a dispute over pay and benefits. Aside from halting diplomatic cables and not providing logistics for visits by Israeli dignitaries abroad, ministry officials refused to provide diplomatic protocol and services in Israel.

During the slowdown, the Estonian president’s wife was left stranded at a restaurant outside Jerusalem, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov was abandoned at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum, and nobody showed up to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when he arrived in Israel.
 

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