Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the deepest crisis in its history. In recent years, the ministry has seen deep cuts in its budget and the transfer of areas of responsibility to other government ministries, for example the task of combating the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, which was entirely handed over to Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information Gilad Erdan, and is managed through various outsourcing bodies from a budget that is not transparent and not supervised.
In Israel foreign service missions around the world, staff has been cut and public diplomacy activity has been reduced to a minimum in the past year, but now the ministry's accountant general, Yossi Strauss, has issued a directive that all activity should cease.
"In the past few months, many discussions have taken place between representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives of the Budgets Division in the Ministry of Finance, with the participation of the accountant general, with the aim of dealing with the wide gaps, estimated in the hundreds of millions of shekels, between the Budget Law and the existing level of activity. Unfortunately, these discussions have not led to the required result," Strauss writes in his directive.
In his letter to Israeli missions abroad and their administrative officers, Strauss instructs all Israeli envoys to halt immediately all work trips in all fields, to halt new initiatives and contractual commitments, and as far as existing commitments are concerned to halt actual purchases where this will not constitute breach of contract.
In addition, Strauss seeks to terminate the employment of paid consultants and Israeli support staff and to halt overtime work for local employees, as well as a halt to all hospitality, conferences, and large meetings.
In effect, the accountant general's directive means a general freeze on all Ministry of Foreign Affairs activity.
In addition, the accountant general orders a halt to all activity within Israel and to ministry courses, to stop overseas trips at all levels, and not to invite delegations and diplomatic representatives for visits and conferences in Israel.
A spokesperson for the ministry told "Globes": "The directive by the ministry's accountant general to freeze all budget-related activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was issued because of the severe deficit at the basis of the ministry's restrictive budget and in order to adapt the ministry's activity to the provisions of the Budget Law. The main upshot is that at this sensitive time, in the face of diplomatic and strategic challenges, headed by the threat from Iran and its satellites, and on the eve of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its representatives around the world will be almost completely paralyzed."
The spokesperson added: "The deep deficit, which we have warned about day and night, is a result of deliberate under-budgeting by the Ministry of Finance Budgets Division. This is an unprecedented situation, in which Ministry of Finance officials shut down a government ministry without any discussion, causing severe damage to Israel's foreign relations. The minister of foreign affairs is taking action to resolve the crisis. We hope that the ministry's activity, which is vital to national security and to the maintenance of Israel's international standing, will be restored to normal."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 9, 2019
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