Israeli embassy shuts as country's diplomatic workers begin global strike

The dispute centres on taxation of overseas stipends, with Israel's foreign ministry accusing the finance ministry of reneging on a deal brokered over the summer


The Israeli embassy in London closed on Tuesday as workers went on strike, joining Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world over a dispute on taxes on overseas stipends.

Signs reading ‘Strike’ in English and Hebrew were hung from the embassy’s locked gates, in Kensington, West London.

Another notice said that it would not re-open until the strike had ended.

It read: “Owing to Israeli Foreign Ministry strike action, our embassy and consulate are both currently closed. Meetings, events and consular appointments will not take place, whether inside or outside our premises.”

The dispute centres on stipends paid to overseas workers, which has traditionally been exempt from taxation, CNN reports.

The Israeli foreign affairs ministry has accused the finance ministry of reneging on an agreement which was brokered in July.

Earlier this week, the finance ministry announced it would apply retroactive taxes on the payments, which would cost staff “thousands of shekels,” according to Hanan Goder, Israel’s ambassador to South Sudan.

He said: “I am not willing to accept this cut. All the time, the staff of the [finance] minister are eroding, cutting, guzzling everything that’s related to the foreign ministry.”

In a statement Wednesday morning, the Foreign Ministry workers' union said: "Due to the finance ministry's decision to violate agreements signed by the finance director on 21.7.19 and to apply to the country's emissaries abroad a unilateral procedure that has changed the decades-old procedure, we are forced to close the Israeli representations in the world as of today.

"No services will be provided to the public and admission to delegations will not be allowed."

In response, the finance ministry accused diplomatic workers of trying to avoid paying taxes.

It said: "Foreign ministry workers must pay taxes like every citizen in the state of Israel.

"We regret that in trying to improve their personal conditions, foreign ministry employees chose to avoid paying taxes and to harm essential services. Foreign Ministry workers are not above the law."

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