While the strike itself is likely temporary, the government’s judicial overhaul has already started to inflict significant damage on Israel’s reputation abroad, former Israeli envoy says

Israeli embassies and consulates around the world closed their doors on Monday as members of the country’s foreign service joined other government workers taking part in a general strike intended to force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend his government’s judicial overhaul.

“Today (3/27), the Histadrut, Israel’s largest labor union, instructed all government employees to go on strike, including Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world,” Elad Strohmayer, spokesman of the Israeli embassy in Washington, tweeted. “The Embassy of Israel will be closed today until further notice and no consular services will be provided.”

Other missions abroad also indicated that they had ceased operations, with the Israeli embassy in Dublin and the consulate in New York announcing the suspension of consular services.

In a notice obtained by Haaretz, the Foreign Ministry workers’ committee declared that the “strike also applies to the embassies abroad” and urged its members “to stop their work in accordance with this directive.”

Despite the strike, however, the ministry’s situation room and security unit continue to function, and diplomats were cautioned to “not take any action or refrain from taking any action that could endanger our people in any way.”

The ministry’s strike came after Histadrut labor federation chairman Arnon Bar-David’s warning Monday morning that Israel’s trade unions were preparing for a labor strike of historic proportions unless Netanyahu immediately suspended his government’s judicial overhaul.

Bar-David’s speech was quickly followed by a spate of announcements from both labor unions and major corporations announcing their participation in the general strike. Protest leaders announced a complete shutdown of the country’s tech industry, while the head of the Israel Airports trade union, an influential Likud party member, directed airport workers to shut down Ben-Gurion International Airport.

A view of Ben-Gurion International Airport today, as take-off flights were halted.
A view of Ben-Gurion International Airport today, as take-off flights were halted.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Monday’s strike comes as Jerusalem is facing a number of diplomatic challenges, including disputes with Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States — which last week took the incredibly rare step of summoning Ambassador Mike Herzog to the State Department following the passage of a law permitting the resettlement of illegal outposts evacuated in 2005.

However, while the strike itself is likely temporary and is unlikely to impact Israeli diplomacy, the government’s judicial overhaul has already started to inflict significant damage on Israel’s reputation abroad, said Arthur Lenk, the former Israeli ambassador to South Africa.

“One of Israel’s most successful calling cards is being a democracy and a liberal, open society in a really difficult neighborhood,” he said. “The judicial coup attempt that’s been going on for the last three months whittles that sympathy away. It’s a big challenge. So I have lots of empathy for my friends all over the world who are literally holding up Israel’s flag in these challenging times.”

Demonstrators outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on Monday.
Demonstrators outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on Monday.Credit: Emil Salman

Speaking with Haaretz shortly after Netanyahu’s return to office, several Israeli diplomats expressed concern that the new government would hurt the country’s diplomatic efforts and foreign relations, recalling how the prime minister had sidelined the Foreign Ministry by handing some of its responsibilities to other government offices during previous terms.

When Netanyahu was reelected in 2015, the Foreign Ministry saw major budget cuts and lost control over core functions traditionally overseen by the diplomatic service. These were instead handed to political allies across a variety of departments.
Anger over the changes led diplomatic personnel to go on strike multiple times over the past decade. The most recent incident was in October 2019, when – complaining that they barely had the budget to carry out their professional duties, let alone make a living wage – diplomats shuttered overseas missions in protest.

Source: Israel’s Embassies Shutter Abroad as Diplomats Strike Against Netanyahu-led Overhaul – Israel News – Haaretz.com

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