cutting Israel shuts embassies and consulates
By Michel Zlotowski,
Paris And Jc Foreign Correspondents
August 2, 2002
Cost-cutting has led the Israeli Foreign Ministry to announce the
closure of a number of embassies and consulates, saving it about
40 million shekels £5.4 million but sparking
criticism from Jewish communities, and its own diplomats, overseas.
In France, the 70,000 Jews of Marseilles will soon be without an
Israeli consulate. Im sorry to say the final decision
was taken, Israels Ambassador to France, Elie Barnavi,
told the JC this week.
French President Jacques Chirac told visiting Israeli Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres that he regretted the decision to close
the consulate, and urged Israel to reconsider.
On the other side of the globe, for the first time in 53 years,
New Zealand will have no Israeli diplomatic mission, after the Wellington
embassy closes in a few months time.
The New Zealand government has already expressed its disappointment,
Ambassador Ruth Kahanoff told the JC. There used to be four
missions in the South Pacific area
Canberra, Sydney, Wellington
and Suva in Fiji. Now we will be reduced to one, in Canberra. Its
The closure of the consulate in Sydney will weaken Israels
strength internationally and its links with the Jewish people worldwide,
said the present consul, Efraim Ben Matit-yahu. It doesnt
make sense, added Israeli Embassy spokesman Michael Ronen.
The Zimbabwe embassy is also earmarked for closure, while Brazil
will soon only have two Israeli diplomatic missions the embassy
in the capital, Brasilia, where there is no Jewish community, and
the consulate in São Paulo where 80,000 Jews live. The consulate
in Rio, which serves a Jewish community of some 40,000, is closing.
Well probably be out in two months, Eitan Surkis,
the consul-general in Rio, adding: There is nothing that I
or anyone can do.
Israel is also shutting down its 10-year-old embassy in Belarus,
despite a spate of recent vandalism against Jewish sites there.
Yakov Basin, vice-president of the Belarus Jewish community, said
that he feared the closure would further fuel anti-Semitism. Some
28,000 Jews now live in Belarus.
In Canada, the consulate in Montreal which has a Jewish
population of about 100,000, the second-largest in the country
is to be closed, leaving a consular presence in Toronto and the
embassy in Ottawa.
Im sure my colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
did it with a torn heart, Consul-General Shlomo Avital told
the JC, citing financial difficulties that gave us no choice.
But initial plans to close down several consulates in the United
States such as Houston, Philadelphia and San Francisco
have been dropped.
In the end, the decision was taken not to close anything
in the US, said Mark Regev, Israeli Embassy spokesman in Washington.
The United States is our closest ally and the work we do
here is very, very important.
Israel currently has 108 diplomatic missions around the world.
by Daniella Peled
July 31, 2002
Israel is set to close eight of its diplomatic
missions around the world in a move that will save the foreign ministry
40m shekels (£5.5m).
Foreign ministry spokesman Amir Gissin said: We are very unhappy
that we have to take this action, but because of severe cutbacks
throughout all ministries we were left with no choice.
These closures have no bearing at all on the bilateral relations
between Israel and these countries, and in many cases we will still
maintain some sort of mission there.
The news comes as prime minister Ariel Sharon declared he wants
to re-establish an embassy in Vienna, two years after diplomatic
links were suspended following the right-wing Freedom Partys
inclusion in the Austrian government.
Sharon said: I have suggested to our foreign minister that
we should renew our relations with Austria. The solution to this
problem is not the boycott, but instead talks, demands and the mobilisation
of all people who believe in democracy.''
Meanwhile, the US government has revealed that diplomatic posts
in Israel are among the hardest to fill. According to a recent report,
on average only two people apply for each placement, despite being
offered a five per cent bonus for working in Tel Aviv and 10 per
cent for Jerusalem.