Popes Israel visit goes forward as Foreign Ministry calls end to strike

Employees of Israel’s Foreign Ministry ended their two-week strike with an agreement to increase pay for diplomats.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry Workers Union called the deal signed April 2 with the Finance Ministry an “outline” of a collective agreement that will be signed within a month, according to Israeli news reports.

Under the collective agreement, diplomat’s salaries will be adjusted according to the cost of living in the country in which they are working. Also, there will be compensation for spouses of diplomats for loss of work in their field and the Foreign Ministry will help pay for the education of foreign diplomats’ children.

“We are glad that the State of Israel understands the difficulties that the fighters of the Foreign Ministry must deal with and are sorry for the unnecessary damage that was caused,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry Workers Union.

The open-ended strike shut down Israel’s 103 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world, and caused the postponement or cancellation of visits by several world leaders and trips by Israeli officials. It also cast doubt on the May 24-26 trip to Israel by Pope Francis.

The pope will visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority for an intensive series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as well as Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders. He also will celebrate religious services and make public speeches.

Francis will fly to Amman, Jordan, on May 24 for a visit that will include celebrating Mass in a stadium. He will fly by helicopter to Bethlehem for a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Francis will address Palestinian authorities and celebrate Mass in Manger Square, as well as meet with children in three refugee camps.

Francis will then fly by helicopter to Jerusalem. On May 26, he will visit the grand mufti of Jerusalem and give an address. Then he will visit the Western Wall and lay a wreath at Mount Herzl. He also will visit and speak at Yad Vashem before meeting Israel’s two chief rabbis.

Later the pope will meet separately with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will depart for Rome that evening. — jta