Diplomats in flip-flops

28 Juin 2013

The Israeli Embassy boycotts the visit of Israel‘s Prime Minister in Poland. The information comes from Israeli media which found out that the visit was organized by the military attaché in Warsaw, Poland and the Security agency Shin Bet. However, nobody officially confirmed the information. As a result, the statement -which was supposed to be signed by the Prime Minister of Poland and Israel- caused controversy before Benjamin Netanjahu started the visit.

Crédit Photo -- Gali Tibbon/AFP
Crédit Photo -- Gali Tibbon/AFP
The confusion is a result of the strike in the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: the diplomats wear flip-flops at work, hold the correspondence and don’t give the visas and passports. Officially it’s about money. They claim that their incomes are too low and they don’t get enough money for the maintenance of the embassy. Moreover, they accuse the government of dismantling the diplomacy.
According to the protest’s organizers, more and more tasks normally done by the diplomats are taken by the Israel Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. At the same time, the Prime Minister didn’t appoint the Minister of Foreign Affairs since the elections.
Avigdor Lieberman, who had been occupying this position since December, is accused of fraud, and Netanyahu is waiting until the judge exonerates Lieberman, leader of one of the Coalition parties.
According to Polish diplomats, this is an unprecedented occurrence. In their opinion, the people taking part in the protest mistake work and service, because in diplomacy you have to serve your country even if there is no payment. The problem may be deeper though. Barak Rawid, who is writing for Haaretz about the Israeli diplomacy, describes Netanyahu’s attitude towards the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a “compound of repulsion, contempt and suspicions”. Netanyahu, known for his right-wing views, doesn‘t hide his reluctance. It may be caused by the high number of current highly ranked diplomats, who quickly climbed the career ladder, at the time when the Labour Party was holding the power.

Though it‘s the first time the protest reaches such a large scale, it has been growing for a long time. One year and a half after the election of Netanyahu, the visit of Russian President Medvedev was cancelled because of the struggle between the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
As a result of the conflict, 10 military attachés couldn‘t come back to Israel, whereas their missions are already finished, because their successors didn’t show up. Indeed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuses to accredit the new ones. The leaders of Shin Bet and the Mossad, and the director of the Ministry of Defense warned the Prime Minister that the protest is weakening the security of the country.
But the most impressive fact lies in the Ministry’s refusal to organize any foreign visit. In May, when Netanyahu went to Beijing, the diplomats made an exception due to the importance of the meeting, but in Washington there was no mercy.
Polish and Israeli Prime Ministers were supposed to accept the statement that “both governments agree on the urgent need for progress towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. That could have helped Netanyahu covering up the bad impression left by one of his ministers, who declared that Israel doesn’t want this solution anymore. But right before coming to Poland, Netanyahu’s bureau announced that the documents had been written by low-level officials, and the Prime Minister didn’t know it in advance. The fact that the Prime Minister would agree with the controversial statement generated a stir.
These are only some examples of the effects of the Israeli strike, since it started three months ago. There are still no signs of improvement.


Kasia Opydo
Etudiante en relations internationales (Université jagellonne de Cracovie, Sciences Po Paris,... En savoir plus sur cet auteur