Every year around Christmas, Israeli ambassadors and heads of missions from across the globe gather at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. It is an occasion for the ambassadors to catch up with one another and to meet face-to-face with headquarter staff. More so, it is a precious occasion for the minister to deliver his or her policy guidelines and to elaborate on the government’s priorities for the coming year. This year, however, the event has been postponed until further notice. There is simply no more money in the coffers.
A ministry going bankrupt is not trivial, even in Israel. But this seems the only way one can describe the situation of the Foreign Ministry these past few months. Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the budget of the Foreign Ministry kept shrinking, reaching a significant low by the end of 2018, when its budget for 2019 suffered an 11% cut. On Sept. 8, this cutting trend marked another low record, when the Ministry of Finance ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop all its activities over a deficit of hundreds of millions of shekels. No more delegations of journalists coming from abroad. No more inviting ambassadors stationed in Israel for a cup of coffee and a diplomatic brief. No more traveling to American colleges to talk about Israel the startup nation. In fact, no more money for staples at the office. In November, the Foreign Ministry was forced to cancel a scheduled visit by a senior delegation from the Japanese Defense Ministry. Invitations of Chinese seniors were also postponed. For when? Nobody knows.