Senior Foreign Ministry officials have harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over "dismantling the ministry, removing its assets, leaving it without a minister, and installing a political appointment as deputy minister."
The criticism comes as Netanyahu has vowed to keep the foreign minister's portfolio for his senior political partner, Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Lieberman, until the latter's legal situation clears up. Lieberman is facing charges of breach of trust.
Netanyahu is currently acting as caretaker foreign minister. Officials in the ministry, which has seen serious austerity measures over the past few years and has cut back on dozens of missions worldwide, have also criticized Netanyahu's placing of Hatnuah party leader Tzipi Livni in charge of a team of ministers that will handle talks with the Palestinians — without the involvement of the Foreign Ministry.
In addition, Netanyahu has shifted the apparatus of the strategic dialogue with the U.S. out of the ministry, and given it instead to Dr. Yuval Steinitz, who has been appointed Minister for International Relations. The new ministry is a combination of the two ministries from the previous government of Intelligence and Atomic Energy and Strategic Affairs. According to some reports, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan will also run the strategic dialogue.
The ire of the Foreign Ministry officials is also being raised by Netanyahu's appointment of MK Ze'ev Elkin as deputy foreign minister. It is still unclear what powers Elkin will have, and if he will be the de facto minister of foreign affairs with full powers, or if his position is symbolic and in name only.
One problem with Elkin's appointment is that foreign governments act according to protocols under which it is not appropriate or respectful for a visiting foreign affairs minister to be hosted by a deputy minister.
"It is doubtful that the prime minister, as acting foreign minister, will meet with every foreign minister who arrives, or with other senior ministers who come to visit. The ministry has been sold out," a senior Foreign Ministry source told Israel Hayom.
"The Foreign Ministry has been turned into a travel agency and the embassy in Washington into a hotel booking service," the source said.
The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment.
However, Elkin's associates rejected the criticisms, saying that over the past several years peace talks with the Palestinians and the Israel-U.S. strategic dialogue have not been run from the Foreign Ministry. Elkin's associates said he would iron out his powers with Netanyahu, who is acting as caretaker foreign minister.
Elkin's appointment did receive some support from the Foreign Ministry's workers' union, which on Sunday met with the head of the wages division in the Finance Ministry in an attempt to settle the wage dispute currently roiling the ministry.
The Foreign Ministry labor dispute encompasses all the ministry's employees.