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Patriotism only goes so far Photo: Reuters
Patriotism only goes so far Photo: Reuters
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon: "We support employees' struggle Photo: Dana Kopel
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon: "We support employees' struggle Photo: Dana Kopel

Israeli diplomats packing bags

Expenses coming out of their own pockets, no travel reimbursements and embarrassed requests for help from mom and dad: Nine emissaries head home, claiming they can't live off diplomatic salary

Itamar Eichner
Published: 12.27.10, 12:07 / Israel News

Y. is an Israeli diplomat who can barely make ends meet from one month to the next. "I'm paying a mortgage in Israel in shekels – even though my salary, in dollars, is worth less due to the plummeting exchange rate," he explains.

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"Other than that, I need to pay for my children's education - $1300 every month for my kid's kindergarten." After only two years on the job in the United States, Y. is coming home.


Y. like eight other Israeli diplomats, recently told the Israeli Foreign Ministry that he will be shortening his term of employment – over the low pay.


Three diplomats in the US, two in Latin America, two in Asia and one in Europe are joining him in returning home – they include a spokesman at a large embassy and an important envoy at another embassy.


"My wife was forced to leave her job because of my employment with the diplomatic service, so she works as a secretary with the delegation making $1900 a month," says Y. who has shortened his contract by over a year.


"Most of her salary pays for our kid's education and she is frustrated that I'm keeping her here as a secretary." Y. makes just $4,800 a month – and that includes all the extras. That might sound like a lot when converted into shekels, but life abroad means that his expenses are much higher than they would be in Israel.


Taking metro to meet Obama

Y. and his colleagues describe a bleak reality where people who are supposed to be representing the country, live in near penury – where expenses often come out of their own pockets and parents are asked to help out.


"I find myself taking the metro to a meeting with the President of the United States Barack Obama, because if I take a car the expense would be crazy," says Y.


L. will be returning to Israel after only four months in his diplomatic role. "We have $1,500 a month that our parents give us just so that we can make ends meet," he explained.


Sources within the Foreign Ministry said that this is a rare case of diplomats shortening their terms of service, a term which usually lasts for between three to five years. Chairman of the Foreign Ministry's Workers' Committee Hanan Goder noted that diplomats' salaries have eroded dramatically and have not been updates in years.


"They don't receive travel reimbursements and don't attend diplomatic events," he stated. "They don't receive overtime and are expected to work around the clock. We fail to understand why diplomats who serve on behalf of their country need to subsidize Israel."


According to him, diplomats prefer to go back to Israel and receive the meager salary – but at least their wife/husband can find a normal job in Israel and increase the monthly family income.


In response, and after disputes with the Foreign Ministry, the Finance Ministry stated Sunday night that "the Finance Ministry has reached an agreement with the Foreign Ministry in which an additional 4% would be added to Foreign Ministry employees' salaries, this in addition to the 6.25% increase which was part of the collective government settlement.


The Finance Ministry's offer wasn't received with a smile in the workers' committee. "This is a disgusting and cynical offer from a Finance Ministry that treats anyone who carried out a violent struggle against them five times better than those who behave," they said.


"We will deliberate over the offer, but it seems like a shameful offer." Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in response that "we support the employees' struggle. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman discussed the matter with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz numerous times."



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