Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday slammed Israel's striking diplomatic staff, saying that they had behaved unacceptably with their industrial action, which has shuttered embassies and missions around the world.
"You have crossed a red line and caused damage to the Foreign Ministry staff," Lieberman told a press conference at the Knesset as the union of ministry workers' strike entered its third day. The union action is in protest of low salaries for diplomats, which they say they cannot live on.
"I am always on the side of the workers and it is right to improve their situation," Lieberman said. But "the fight is heading in an unhealthy, wrong direction and has lost legitimacy and the support of the public."
Lieberman presented what he said was data on ministry salaries, saying that he was considering a request for a back-to-work order for the striking staffers.
"It is the right of the workers to strike and demand improved working conditions, (but) I do not like that they are hurting the helpless," he said.
"What is happening today is that poor souls who have lost their passports cannot come back to Israel… and we cannot return the bodies of people who passed away abroad, or those in need of support whose caregivers are out of the country and must return."
The strike has also thrown state visits into disarray, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelling a trip to Latin America, after the National Security Council said that would be impossible to organize this kind of trip without the assistance of the Foreign Ministry workers.
The strike, which began Sunday, is the first in the country's history that has seen the closure of all 103 of Israel's embassies, consulates, and diplomatic delegations across the world, as well as the ministry's headquarters in Jerusalem.
The ministry workers have been engaged in a struggle to improve their working conditions for more than a year, leading them to lock horns with the Finance Ministry, whcih they claim refuses to acknowledge diplomats' rights or improve their salaries.