JERUSALEM—Israel will close seven diplomatic missions over the next 3 years for budgetary reasons.
The Israeli cabinet approved the 2019 state budget last week.
Besides the consulate in Atlanta, facing closure are the Israeli embassies in Ireland, Belarus, Eritrea, the Dominican Republic, the consulate in the Indian city of Bengaluru and an embassy in either Latvia or Lithuania, the Israeli media reported.
The move comes even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has talked of opening new offices, especially in Africa. He told Rwandan President Paul Kagame at a meeting in Nairobi in November that Israel would opening an embassy in Kigali in the near future.
The cutbacks were blamed on a series of agreements that give envoys and local embassy employees pay raises to the tune of $11.75 million. Staff staged demonstrations and even strikes in recent years to protest their wages and demand raises, arguing meager salaries – some as low as $1,200 per month for career diplomats – were ultimately compromising Israeli diplomacy’s efforts.
Officials threatened to close 22 offices abroad out of Israel’s total of 103 to justify the pay raises. But in negotiations between the foreign and finance ministries, the number was lowered to seven, to be closed down by 2022.