Foreign Ministry Staffers to Fly Coach

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - The Israeli Foreign Ministry, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, issued a directive to senior diplomats advising that they will no longer be permitted to fly business class to and from meetings abroad.

"In light of the expected budget cut and regarding the Foreign Ministry's operation budget for 2009 for traveling abroad [and] because of the financial crisis and the deficit in the ministry's travel budget, from now on the only people entitled to travel in business are the foreign minister, the vice foreign minister and the ministry's director-general. All other travels abroad will be conducted in economy class," the directed read.

The directive downgrades 15 vice director-generals, who oversee the ministry's directorates, to traveling economy class.

One diplomat wrote the ministry's accountant general, noting that the group of 15 senior diplomats generally travels abroad for one to two days, packed with meetings.

"Surely you do not think we are so stupid to believe that a decision, which affects no more than 15 people, will have a significant effect on the Foreign Ministry's expenditure," he wrote.

"I have no choice but to conclude that your decision is spiteful. All it achieves is to make life harder for people who travel abroad for short periods and are expected to perform their duties effectively when they arrive," he said.

Another bone of contention is the provision of cell phones and generous expense accounts to administrative workers abroad, but not to their Israeli counterparts.

"Many workers feel that the Foreign Ministry expects diplomats to fund their work out of their own pockets," a letter from the workers union sent to Aharon Abramowitz, the ministry's director-general.

"The continuation of this inequality is harming Israel's relations with other countries," the letter stated.

Source: Haaretz

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