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Accustomed to racketeering, the trade union of Israeli diplomatic employees demanded perks on par with those enjoyed by the army and intelligence services. After being rebuffed, the trade union instructed its personnel in Israeli embassies abroad to boycott visits by government officials.

Left without local diplomatic support during his visit to Greece, Netanyahu asked for Mossad’s help. The trade union retaliated by extending its boycott to Mossad personnel abroad, and now they cannot get routine assistance in Israeli embassies.

Barak’s visit to Russia was equally impeded by the boycott. The trade union also threatens to boycott the IDF’s personnel on foreign trips if the army helps Barak organize the trip in circumvention of the trade union.

To millions of visitors, diplomatic personnel in embassies are Israel’s ugliest face. The way trade union members treat tourists in Israeli embassies is outright despicable.

The strike has gone on since August 17: in all embassies, staff do not pick up calls even from Israeli citizens—yet they receive salaries.

Update: The trade union has ended its boycott to accommodate the Labor Party minister during his trip to Moscow.

Israel’s Defense Minister pleaded with the Russians to halt the sale of SS-N-26 surface-to-sea missiles to Syria. Like Iran, Syria has purchased another Russian bestseller, TOR-1M SAM batteries, and wants S-300.

Even if the Russians suspend the deliveries—which is unlikely—Syria would continue to receive somewhat less capable S-802 missiles from China. Israel’s best course would be to become Russia’s largest arms customer: Russian weapons are inexpensive, and adequate for regional conflicts. Then we can ask the Russians to abandon their Muslim customers.

Regular crises over missile sales highlight the refusal of Israeli generals to acknowledge a major change in the nature of warfare. For decades, we excelled in high-tech offense: aircraft and tanks. Inexpensive, efficient missiles have made this advantage obsolete. And short of using nuclear weapons, the lost advantage in offensive air and naval capabilities seems irreplaceable.

September 2010
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