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Israeli Foreign Ministry staff seek department improvements

April 25, 2013 at 6:25 AM

JERUSALEM, April 25 (UPI) -- Israeli Foreign Ministry staff members, saying the department was "hacked to pieces," are seeking a full-time minister and demand improved working conditions.

Several Israeli diplomats stationed abroad told The Times of Israel Thursday that labor sanctions are disrupting their work and warned the dispute could turn into a full-blown strike if the issues remain unaddressed.

Not only are diplomats fighting for improved working conditions and better pay, they also object that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed himself as stand-in foreign minister until the legal problems faced by former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are ruled on in court.

Because of his workload, Netanyahu hasn't always had the time to meet personally with visiting foreign dignitaries, The Times of Israel said.

Ministry staff members are also concerned over Netanyahu's decision to divide the ministry's responsibilities and create new posts for incoming ministers, the report said.

Examples include appointing Yuval Steinitz to head a newly formed International Relations Ministry and charge Justice Minister Tzipi Livni with presiding over peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

"A new government was formed and the Foreign Ministry was hacked to pieces," a diplomatic source told the website, "so the workers' union added this [concern] to its banner. Of course in our discussions with the Finance Ministry we cannot demand of the prime minister to appoint a foreign minister. But it's part of the anger."

With a labor dispute in effect since January, diplomatic staff have stopped sending email and diplomatic cables. Visits abroad by a number of Israeli dignitaries were canceled after the ministry failed to supply them with the necessary diplomatic passports, the site said.

Yair Frommer, head of the ministry's workers' union, warned if the issues aren't dealt with in the coming days, Netanyahu's trip to China next month and that of President Shimon Peres to the Vatican next week, could be jeopardized, the website said.

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