The cost of the Israeli Foreign Ministry workers strike mounted this week after it was estimated that the country is now losing more than £6,000,000 in revenue from tourists each week.
The staggering figure from the Incoming Tour Operators Association emerged as the industrial action over diplomats’ pay deepened, with the closure of Israel’s 103 embassies for the first time.
The move followed nearly three weeks of lower-level action which had brought consular services to a standstill – preventing hundreds of visitors from being able to renew passports or visas – severely affecting leisure, business and emergency travellers.
The Israeli Embassy in London, which will remain closed for an unknown period, said last night there is no part of its work that is unaffected by the strike “including the relationship with the Foreign Office, parliamentarians, think-tanks, media and academia”.
The diplomat dedicated to working to fight boycotts and delegitimisation against the state was among those not at the office, at a time when two boycott motions passed in the UK, including at King’s College London on Tuesday.
“This shows the complex reality in the UK and need to have an active embassy here,” an embassy statement read.
“The strike has already begun to take its toll. Damage to tourism worldwide is estimated at $10million a week; long-term damage to economic and other Israeli interests in the UK is inevitable.
“Nobody wanted to get to this point, least of all Israel’s diplomats, who work tirelessly to build relationships aimed at advancing Israel’s vital interests across the world.”
The most troubling warning this week came from Mossad, with Army Radio reporting last night that its chiefs had warned Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of potential damage to its work.
Officials reportedly expressed that the identities of secret agents could be compromised if the strike continued. While Lieberman accused striking diplomats of “thuggery” and urged them to return immediately to work, there appeared to be no end in sight of a dispute that had seen mediation with the finance ministry until this month.
The embassy statement added: “It is clear that the current situation is unsustainable. But the conditions which have led to the strike, are also unsustainable, leading to 30 percent of Israel’s diplomats to leave the foreign service due to financial difficulty.
“The battle for the future of Israel’s foreign service is taking place right now. At stake will be Israel’s ability to recruit the best and the brightest.”