מצורפים מכתבי התמיכה של ראשי המנהיגות היהודית העולמית, המשבר המתמשך בשירות החוץ הישראלי ברור לעיניהם והם אינם חוסכים במילים לתיאור היקפו:
Following are letters of support, written by the heads of world Jewish organizations.
The ongoing crisis in the Israeli Foreign ministry is a cause for concern overseas, as it is in Israel, and in some cases even more so.
I would normally never get involved in an Israeli labor dispute. Not being Israeli, I know my place. But in the case of the decision by Israel’s diplomats to walk out after failing to reach a satisfactory deal with the government, I readily confess that I can’t remain silent.
I know well many of Israel’s diplomats, having met them in Jerusalem, New York, and the four corners of the earth over the course of several decades involved in AJC’s global advocacy. Most are truly impressive, serve Israel proudly and thoughtfully, and endure hardships that may not always be apparent to the casual observer.
Sadly, I’ve learned, however, they are also often undervalued and underappreciated.
Let’s start with the job itself.
Israel is not exactly a large, self-sufficient nation, if any such country exists. It needs lifelines to the world. Its diplomats fulfill that role. Name a country, big or small, and there are essential Israeli interests. At the end of the day, it is the diplomats who doggedly pursue those interests, be they in the bilateral or multilateral arenas. Remove them from the equation, and Israel is vastly diminished as a nation, with its global position at greater risk.
Indeed, the work is so indispensable that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must be able to attract – and retain – the best and the brightest. But how to do so when the pay scale is as surprisingly low as I discovered it to be?
Moreover, the work may seem glamorous from the outside, but up close it is demanding on the diplomats and, yes, their families.
Imagine, for instance, serving in a country located in a time zone six or eight hours ahead of or behind Israel’s. That means the diplomats have to be on call not only during all the working hours of the country in which they’re serving, but also many additional hours because of the time differences with Israel and its working rhythm. And while Israel has a Sunday-Thursday work week, most other places have a Monday-to-Friday schedule. Add to that the crises which don’t necessarily respect the clock and you can easily have a non-stop job.
Consider, too, that, with small staffs in most embassies, consulates, and missions, there’s a tremendous workload on the shoulders of each of the diplomats. Two or three diplomats to cover a country of, say, ten million people, with its myriad centers of power and influence, can easily be stretched to the limit, and then some.
Further, moving every three to four years takes its toll on families. Spouses generally have to give up their professional careers, and children are moved back and forth between Israel and various countries, at times causing understandable family tensions and traumas.
And the work can be very dangerous. Israel recently marked the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist attack on its embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 people were killed, including a few whom I knew. Alas, that was not the only assault on an Israeli installation abroad, not to mention the various thwarted incidents. In other words, diplomats surrounded day and night by armed guards don’t exactly have an easy or care-free life.
In today’s world, Israel seeks to widen and deepen its diplomatic, political, strategic, economic, cultural, and other ties with a whole host of countries, drawing on its many, and growing, assets, from cyber security to water management, agriculture to medicine, innovation to high-tech, and counter-terrorism to environmental protection. Diplomats are on the cutting edge in presenting Israel as a “brand” worth knowing, exploring, and engaging.
At the same time, the war against Israel has, of course, expanded from Israel’s borders to the global stage. The BDS campaigns, the flytillas and flotillas, the delegitimizers, the one-staters, and other hypocrites have taken to the media, the courts, the universities, the intelligentsia, the streets, and countless other venues in their relentless efforts to tarnish Israel’s good name, declare it a pariah state, and bring it to its knees. Israel’s diplomats are the front-line combatants in standing up to these determined adversaries. This is all about Israel’s national security, nothing less.
My earnest hope is that Israel’s government will quickly find a way to recognize the indispensable role of its nation’s diplomats and offer them improved working conditions – and the respect that goes with it. Handled well, this could be a win-win situation rather than, perforce, a zero-sum outcome.
I don’t know of many Israelis who choose diplomacy to get rich. Rather, it offers a chance to represent a country they love and whose interests they want to protect and advance. There can be few higher callings. I know. I’ve met literally hundreds of Israel’s diplomats in scores of countries over several decades. They deserve the chance to return to their vital posts with the dignity befitting their chosen career paths.
דברים ברורים וחדים כותב גם מלקולם הונליין, סגן יו"ר וועידת הנשיאים [הגוף המאגד את כל הארגונים היהודיים הגדולים ברחבי העולם]
By: Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents
Malcolm Hoenlein with Prime Minister Netanyahu
"I started writing this article during the first Israeli Foreign Ministry strike a few months ago, but was reluctant to publish it because of my personal predilection against involvement in internal governmental matters of this kind. Visiting Israel at the time, I was stunned by the public’s indifference to the strike and the dismissive attitude towards those engaged in it. Now, with the strike resumed and intensified, the same lack of concern and interest seems to prevail.
When there is a strike that directly impacts people's lives, like a bus stoppage or electricity shut off, the reaction is swift and pressure quickly mounts to reach an accommodation. This is not the case when Israeli diplomats go on strike, possibly because most people don’t realize the negative effects, the direct harm and the lasting damage it may cause.
I cannot presume to evaluate the demands and counteroffers made by striking Foreign Ministry workers or by Finance Ministry officials, but I am in a position to judge the impact that the strike is having not only on Israeli diplomats but also on many good people who wish to visit, develop ties or engage in commerce with the Jewish state.
I have worked closely with many members of Israel’s foreign service at every level for decades. Most of them are amongst the hardest working and most devoted, dedicated and committed public servants I have ever met. Many of them could easily find more lucrative positions outside the Foreign Ministry, were it not for their devotion to serving the country and representing Israel abroad.
Far too many Israeli elected and public officials do not sufficiently appreciate these diplomats or the personal sacrifices they must make in order to represent Israel around the globe, including in hostile or isolated locations. Their assignments can often involve danger to them and their families – and the memorials in the Foreign Ministry attest to those who have paid with their lives. Often, the spouses of diplomats must give up promising careers in order to accompany their families abroad. This can also mean relinquishing a pension and creating obstacles to finding similar employment when they return.
I know that some people are under the impression foreign postings for diplomats entail lavish benefits. This is far from the truth, especially for those who are with families who serve in expensive cities. I personally know of Israeli diplomats who were forced to borrow money while abroad in order to make ends meet. I was not surprised to learn, therefore, that one third of those recruited in the past ten years have left the Foreign Ministry for financial reasons.
I have worked especially closely with Israeli emissaries in the United States. They are a remarkably talented and articulate team that would make any country proud. They devote themselves wholeheartedly to their tasks, are available at all hours, day or night, and often go far beyond the call of duty. In the Conference of Presidents we visit many countries – most recently Spain and Greece – and we are often witnesses to the high regard in which Israel's representatives are held. In Israel itself a few weeks ago, we were once again impressed with the competence, knowledge and understanding of the staff that serves in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
Israel’s foreign service is a critical part of the country's strategic equation and is vital to an array of national interests. From the consular services that address individual needs to hasbara advocacy for Israel, to promotion of economic ties and facilitation of visits by foreign leaders and people of influence, Israeli diplomats provide vital services.
It is clear that most people in Israel, aside from those seeking direct services, do not realize the overall impact the strike is having. Many visits by leaders and delegations have and will be cancelled or postponed as a result of this strike: Events have been called off, plans have been scuttled, lives have been disrupted. Yet far too many people, in both the government and the media, show a shocking lack of personal compassion for the striking diplomats or concern for the damage that their strike is causing to the perception of Israel as a while.
I hope that this appeal can help to introduce a greater sense of urgency to the negotiations and perhaps some soul-searching about how those who are “the face of Israel abroad” are being treated. It is humiliating for them as well as for the State of Israel, and the price is mounting everyday."