Foreign Ministry employees shun diplomats
As if Israel's foreign relations weren't bad enough – workers disrupt diplomats' visits as part of internal rift over wages. Estonian president's wife left behind in Abu Ghosh restaurant, Bulgarian FM 'ditched' at Yad Vashem, Russian FM forced to wait at airport
A partial strike of Foreign Ministry workers hits a new record on Monday, leading to a series of diplomatic embarrassments.
The spouse of Estonia's president was left behind at an Abu Ghosh restaurant, the Bulgarian foreign minister was "ditched" at Yad Vashem Holocaust history museum, and the Russian foreign minister was forced to wait at the airport until the deputy minister's bureau staff arranged Russian flags and a red carpet they had to personally roll out for the distinguished diplomat.
The ministry's employees declared a work dispute six months ago, demanding to increase their wages so that they match those of ministry delegates sent abroad.
Lately, the employees, who are required to report to work in professional attire, began showing up in sandals and jeans. When the fashion statement failed to draw attention to their protest, the employees decided to step up their fight.
At first, Foreign Ministry limousine drivers decided to abandon senior guests during their visit. Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov fell victim to the act of protest when he was "abandoned" at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and had to use a rental car arranged last minute by the Bulgarian embassy.
Evelin Ilves, the wife of Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, also suffered the consequences when her appointed drivers left her behind at a restaurant in Abu Ghosh.
Later, the employees decided to disrupt the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who arrived to Israel on Monday.
En-route to the airport to receive the diplomat, the drivers received an instruction to make a u-turn and ditch the guest. Chief of Protocol Yitzhak Eldan was there to greet the minister, but all other ministry employees were no-shows.
To prevent a bigger embarrassment, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was forced to personally arrive at the airport and welcome the diplomat. Ayalon's bureau staff members were instructed to find Russian flags and arrange a red carpet, which they had to roll out themselves.
On top of that, the Foreign Ministry employees failed to coordinate VIP services for the top diplomat, and the Russian embassy was forced to rent vehicles to escort the minister and his entourage.
Following the debacle, the Russian delegation considered cancelling their visit, but eventually held it as planned with minimal presence of Foreign Ministry personnel.
Due to the circumstances, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman shifted his scheduled lunch with the Russian counterpart to King David hotel, in order to prevent further unpleasantness.
The partial strike forced National Security Advisor Uzi Arad to cancel his visit to Moscow, which was scheduled for Wednesday