British embassy accused of helping to ‘denigrate Israeli diplomats’ status’

British embassy accused of helping to ‘denigrate Israeli diplomats’ status’

Matthew Gould
Matthew Gould
British ambassador Matthew Gould


The union behind the current strike action by Israeli diplomats has expressed disappointment at the British Embassy’s efforts to coordinate David Cameron’s visit to Israel – claiming their actions were helping to “disrupt a just and legitimate labour dispute”.

The unprecedented criticism comes in a letter to British ambassador in Tel Aviv Matthew Gould, a day before the prime minister is due to arrive in the country for a two-day visit that will include an historic address to the Knesset and talks with his Israeli counterpart.

It had been thought the labour dispute – which centres on pay – could force the cancellation of the visit as foreign ministry workers were urged last week to halt work on coordinating foreign trips. But the Israeli premier’s office and the British embassy have continued to work on the visit to ensure it takes place.

Saying Gould was “better placed than most to appreciate the “gargantuan tasks faced by Israel diplomats and the paucity of resources placed at their disposal”, the union wrote: “As professionals to a professional, that we express our disappointment that your embassy has been actively contributing to the on-going efforts to break our struggle for better and fairer conditions.

“As a civil servant yourself, surely you will sympathize with our never-ending endeavour to try and make the most with so very little. Surely you have realized that in the 21st century, it is more often than not the diplomats in suits, rather than soldiers in uniform, that are best suited to promote their nation’s security interests. Surely you have personally experienced at least some of the issues that we find so frustrating, and which compel us to take the unprecedented step of declaring an industrial action.”

The letter – which also paid tribute to the envoy’s work in enhancing bilateral relations – described  Cameron as “a welcome guest in our country” but the current circumstances don’t enable the ministry to “contribute towards the full success” of the visit.

“As a colleague, we would have expected you to ask Mr. Cameron to defer his arrival here, until such a time when we could extend to him the kind of reception he certainly merits. Instead, by cooperating with alternative Israeli government organs in circumventing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the British Embassy is knowingly contributing to denigrating our status, undercutting our traditional responsibilities and disrupting a just and legitimate labour dispute.

“We have been hoping for your solidarity and support, especially since it is us who regularly provide your embassy with the vast majority of the services required for its smooth operation. Once our strike is over, will you continue seeking those services from the same government departments with whom you are now cooperating in breaking our struggle?”

 A spokesperson for the British Embassy told the Jewish News: “We have an enormous respect for the work of our colleagues at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we are grateful to them for their close collaboration with us.The visit of Prime Minister Cameron will be a proud moment for both countries, and we regret the MFA were unable to participate in its organisation on this occasion. We look forward to working closely with the MFA on future visits.”

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